Recently I have been trying to better understand my own work and identity due to the fact that I work in a marketing department. I view myself as an artist, but I rarely if ever have recognized advertisers and marketers as true art creators. Now I am one.
Am I no longer an artist because I make ads? Maybe not.
What is art? That question is like asking what is beauty, or what is truth, or what is "good" - people have been pursuing that question since who knows when, and it is likely they will continue to do so. I don't have the answer to what art really is, and I have explored it in too many settings than I care to share here. What if there was someone many people could identify as a true artist, and look to them as an example of their ability to make art within the confines of a commercialized endeavor? Someone like . . . Werner Herzog!
The man has made some incredibly moving content in his years, and yet here he is accepting a project commissioned by a bunch of phone companies.
An article in the LA Times explains how the phone companies came together to sponsor this project, and how Herzog completed their initial product goal via 30 second shorts but wanted to do something more. Herzog explains:
There was always one thing clear — there had to be 30-second spots, and I had no problem to do that because I'm not very much into the life of consumerism — in this case, it's not for selling a product. It's a warning that there are dangers in the product. But then I immediately said it would be really good if there were a longer form of it. Everybody expected me to bring the same deep raw emotion into 30 seconds, and you can't do that fully.
Obviously the art content will make the bigger difference in the long run due to the fact that thousands of schools are now requiring this film to be shown to students each year. What I think is very telling here is Herzog's motivation for the project. He really isn't trying to sell something, but give a warning.
The film is a moving piece of artwork in my opinion, but perhaps some might argue that this is a product commissioned by an organization that is driven by selling products and services. The fact is, artists simply can not do their work without funding. Since the renaissance we have been blessed with some of the world's greatest masterpieces because a rich donor commissioned them to do it.
Perhaps it is both within the creator of the message, and the financier of the project that a certain desire for true human connection is required. A sense or a feeling that what is being crafted is more than just a tool to drive profit or awareness, but to touch lives. After reading Jobs I think that Steve Jobs truly fits here. He saw himself and his products in a completely different way than most folks did. It was out of his insane passion and almost zen connection with what he saw as revolutionary that he reached beyond just sales, making money, or beating Microsoft. You can get a small feel for that in his presentation of the "Think Different" campaign.
I don't have an answer to my original qualm about my identity, but I think it has something to do with the way I approach my work rather than what my job description outlines. Isn't it that way with all of us?
The way we do our work says something about the way we view ourselves.
Regardless of whether I am making ads, building sub sandwiches, teaching a class, or cleaning the bathroom I can always choose to do so as an artist or a paid drone.
A friend recently suggested I check out TED's Ads Worth Spreading. In looking at their special "White Paper" report I found some really good reasoning along the subject of art and advertising. I think everyone is coming to better recognize how interrelated and connected the really can be. Said one executive in the report:
“It’s all the stuff that makes the world go around: human moments, human myths, transcending our limits, transcending our prejudices, rediscovering ourselves, laughing at ourselves, and believing in our dreams.”
Do yourself a favor and watch a few of these. I think they do a pretty good job at approaching an art form, don't you?
I am a graduate student in Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University. I enjoy writing, hiking, and spending time with my family.