Advertising and Art: Five Differences in the Approach to Creativity Barbara Sabo

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Why don’t we refer to creatives as artists or artists as creatives? Both agency creatives and artists express themselves creatively in different yet similar fields. So how can we tell the difference between commercial work and art? Why don’t we call creatives, artists or artists, creatives? These and other questions arose to our copywriter Barbara Sabo during the months of collaborating with artists on an unconventional project – designing the miss7 Friendship Museum exhibition for the purpose of brand experience. Along the way, she found answers to some of these questions. Read them carefully:

1. The Brief: Freedom or Shackles?
When I gathered eight young Croatian artists for a briefing, there was a sentence that made their eyes sparkle: “Do what you want.” The brief was defined solely by theme, and birthed eight completely different, unique interpretations. Putting together a brief with countless requests wouldn’t make too much sense if you wanted an original and personal approach. On the other hand, what is an absolute “no-no” with artists doesn’t count when working with creatives (or an agency). An epically long brief, making modifications to it, or making personal corrections to someone’s work (not to mention handling the designer’s mouse and writing one’s own rhymes) is nothing new to creatives. And yet, there’s nothing better than working on a project with the potential to create something original.
Conclusion: Freedom of expression yields best results, for a single reason – everyone cares a bit more about pursuing their own visions, than someone else’s.

2. Team or solo players?
Neither creatives nor artists create from nothing – in their process, both get inspired by, explore, and refer to their surroundings. But an artist is for the most part a one-man team who has the luxury to create from start to finish, in the intimacy of their own workshop or studio. Creatives, on the other hand, are always surrounded by people, even when they don’t like it. They are a link in the process of creation, so in addition to having a responsibility to the client, there’s also the strategic, design and production teams to collaborate with in harmony. Sometimes, you get a whole army of people and opinions, so in the process of shaping an idea, you may end up with something completely different; however, the dynamic environment tends to quickly create something even better.
Conclusion: What they create sometimes differs less than how they create. While the artist is a solo player, a good creative has to be able to function in a team.

3. L’art pour l’art?
Both art and advertising strive for innovation and originality and want to convey a unique idea or message to their audience. But their ultimate purpose is quite different. In advertising, it’s business improvement: originality, creativity, and craft all serve this purpose. Art, however, has no socially or business-mandated purpose. Blessed be the artists, for they don’t create for 99 out of a 100 people in the room. One artist, one work of art, and one person in the room who understands – just enough for art to fulfil its purpose.
Conclusion: The matter of purpose means that the answer is different for each job, but in the end, communication is the common ground. It’s just achieved differently and aimed at a different audience.

4. Feedback, what is it?
After we got the initial sketches by our artists, two of them were given feedback to try to work out their idea in a different direction. What happened was that they stuck to their initial ideas until the end, and we accepted them rather than intervene in their artistic vision. If artists always listened to feedback, maybe they would all do the same thing. The answer to why feedback doesn’t work with artists also lies in signatures. Try to remember how many names were signed under the last major campaign you’ve read about, and how many artists were featured on a more notable work of art. While campaigns are passed like batons, a work of art is inseparable from its author, and we should respect that.
Conclusion: Unlike creatives, artists don’t have to listen to anyone, because at the end of the day, only one name is behind the artwork.

5. Are all of us here for the glory?

When it comes to the market value of a particular piece of art, it’s most often associated with the author of the work – the more renowned the artist, the more appreciated the work. However, in our industry, the brand is the bearer of value and the brand is the celebrity – not the creative. But in the world of art and advertising alike, fame is a good tool for attracting your audience’s attention. It’s easier to keep once you have it. A global campaign that has leveraged brand fame and an artist’s fame is Burger King’s Eat like Andy. The brand got its hands on some footage of the renowned Andy Warhol, who recorded himself doing typical American things, like eating a burger. Coincidentally, he ate a Whopper, and the brand played the original footage during the Super Bowl. The results were, naturally, insane, and, naturally, the whole world learned about it overnight, and, naturally as well, they bagged a couple of lions in Cannes.
Conclusion: Smaller brands with a good creative team have a much harder time trying to reach an audience. The fame of a brand and brand ambassador (as well as an artist) is a recipe for creating more value and impact.

We can learn a lot from our attitude towards art as well as artists, such as how to value our own work and to what extent to accept compromise in a creative team. Fortunately, this year in Cannes, there was talk of returning responsibility and decision-making to the creative, and we can only hope that this trend will come to life here as well.

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