Advertising & Art A Modern-Day Marriage

By Tarateta, Maja | Art Business News, April 2001 | Go to article overview

Advertising & Art A Modern-Day Marriage


Tarateta, Maja, Art Business News


Though art has been used in advertising for centuries, a new breed of artists are promoting modern products and garnering mass appeal

A company known for expensive corporate copiers searches for a way to make it's name equally synonymous in a new arena called SOHO printers for small offices and the home. Creatives at the company's ad agency, Young & Rubicam, latch upon the idea of using the Blue Dog, created by Louisiana artist George Rodrigue, to help. Several months of negotiations and ground rules later, the $200 million Xerox Blue Dog campaign begins. And so does the company's success in the arena: IntelliQuest Inc. reportedly found that within two months of the campaign, the public's awareness of Xerox as an ink-jet printer company increased 100 percent.

Media philosopher Marshall McLuhan called advertising "the greatest art form of the 20th century." But it's not only that advertising has come to be called art. It seems that art, today, is becoming intricately entwined in advertising.

Since the beginning of print advertising, "commercial art" has been utilized to market goods. Many of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's posters, while now considered art, were designed to sell a theatre, a circus, a brothel. Norman Rockwell and J.C. Leyendecker likewise made art to sell shirts or magazines before they gained respect as artists.

But now, in a relatively new twist, companies like Xerox are convincing established fine artists like Rodrigue to allow their works of art to be used to sell products--and sell them with boundless success. Absolut, Coca-Cola and Stolichnaya are among the companies that are turning the worlds of art and advertising topsy-turvy. And in the process, the public considers all three--art, advertising and product--in new ways.

At the American Advertising Museum in Portland, Ore., one goal is to educate visitors on the cultural impact advertising makes on American society. Curator and Administrator Catherine Coleman describes art as having a "natural connection to advertising because art is human expression, and advertising done well connects a product or service directly to a perceived need or desire, the `human expression' we'd like to convey to our own personal world. Advertising takes art's `human expression' and exposes it to a mass audience and spins in the sometimes harsh and inartistic intent of increasing product sales," said Coleman. "In my mind, the benefit of using art in advertising is art's attention-grabbing quality, art's connection with the soul. And I think that's why it's done and how it succeeds. Art catches your eye or ear, makes you think and can increase your memory of the product name."

Which is just what it did in the case of Xerox. According to results from Mapes and Ross Research Co., which tested Xerox's Blue Dog TV advertising, their targeted customers reported remembering the Xerox ads 1.5 times above the normal recall rate.

"The power of advertising can be greater than the image itself," admitted Rodrigue. "I don't want it to get bigger than me. I wouldn't have done this 10 years ago, before anyone knew me. I didn't think it could hurt me now."

Rodrigue said he set very strict ground rules before agreeing to become involved in the Xerox campaign. "I control the whole thing," he said. "I control the Blue Dog." Part of his control of the campaign and the dog means producing only full paintings for the company to use in the ads as actual paintings, so "people know the Blue Dog is a painting, and I am the artist who did it," said Rodrigue. The ads, for example, may show a Blue Dog painting in a museum or in a gallery. Rodrigue said he's turned down multitudes of requests to use the Blue Dog on t-shirts and in cartoon series but felt that this use of the Blue Dog would allow more people to know his art without compromise.

"There's a very blurry line between art and advertising," he said. "But for an illustrator who paints for advertising, it is very hard to be taken seriously in the art world. …

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