July 9, 2013 by Tamara Piety
Apparently there is some trouble recruiting young people to an advertising career. So ad agency Leo Burnett came up with a pitch called “Le Communique Art Show” (I have no idea why “le communique”; it’s their pitch). The idea as laid out in this article and the accompanying video at Advertising Age is try to show young people that advertising offers a great career in which they can express their creativity. It involves setting up what purports to be an art show in a gallery setting but all the art is really advertising stripped of its logos. Without the logos people experience the visuals as “art.” The big reveal at the end of the show is to tell everyone that what they’ve just seen is art.
I’m not sure that the notion that advertising can be beautiful and creative is all that remarkable or that it necessarily will translate into a better view of advertising or more satisfaction with a career in advertising. Observing that without the logos people experience advertising as “art” and that this somehow reveals some intrinsic truth about the work seems both obvious and puzzling.
Removing the logos removes one of the critical instruments of its function as advertising versus art. It isn’t advertising without the logo (or some similar identification with the brand or the product to be sold) so removing the logo is removing some of the meaning, not revealing some intrinsic quality that it had all along. To suggest the logo is just a fairly superficial overlay that doesn’t change the thing’s basic nature is rather like saying that Kim Kardashian’s wedding to Kris Humphries was like a normal wedding except for the promotional deals. It is a big “except,” one that changes the nature of the object or experience.
Think of it this way, suppose you were approached by a very attractive person who expressed interest in you, who seemed to hang on your every word and said flattering things about your looks and your intelligence. Would you feel differently about that exchange if you found out that this attractive person had been paid to approach you? More to the point for the purpose of this display, do you think the activity would have the same valence to the person who approached you if they had chosen you for themselves versus being paid to pitch to you? Exactly.
This art installation experience was a part of the “TruthBrief Competition, which was introduced by the 4A’s [an advertising professionals group] at its annual conference in partnership with McCann Erickson, [an agency]” and grew out of a March 2013 study called “‘The Truth About Advertising,’ the study found that four of 10 consumers ‘loved’ advertising, and 69% of them thought advertising could make the world a better place.” so 6 out of 10 did not “love” advertising and while a clear majority thought advertising could make the world a better place, that does not mean they thought it did. The survey response may have been speaking more to advertising’s potential than its reality. In any event it turns out that familiarity may breed something like, if not contempt, then perhaps a lack of enthusiasm since “those inside the industry really didn’t like advertising very much — 56% thought people in advertising wished they were doing something more creative. And a huge majority — 70% — thought the heyday of advertising was behind them.”
There is something a little comical about this exercise – “Look! We aren’t so bad!” – this effort seems to be saying. So people love the art in advertising with its “clothes off” (no logos). Will they be as enamored once advertising get “dressed” again?