First time I saw the film Art and Copy, about a year ago, it changed my perception of advertising. At the time, I found myself a little disillusioned with what the industry was, where motivations were and what I was doing. The movie (if you’re unfamiliar) is a retrospective on the greats of the advertising world. Very beautifully done, with a rousing cast of inspiring characters. From George Lois to Dan Wieden + David Kennedy (just inducted into the Art Directors hall of fame today) Jeff Goodby, Rich Silverstein and Lee Clow. All such visionaries in their own respect, set an amazing course and continue to inspire us. The film weaves their stories into a single tale of the “advertising” world through the eyes of those who tell the stories.
A year ago, I watched this movie with such wonder-awestruck and doe-eyed all I wanted to do was join them on this journey. Today I watch it and it makes me just a little uncomfortable. It’s an amazing retrospective, it feels almost eerily historical. In a world of such progressive thinking and “newness” I find myself asking “what is our story?” Times have changed, yet in so many ways we haven’t quite changed with it. Are we still telling their stories? They set a magnificent stage and I just don’t know if we’re moving it the way they once did.
And it’s not to dog on what’s being done, I live in this world–we’re all working hard, making great work happen whenever we can. Everyday, small battles are won in places across the country. Daring projects, new ways of thinking and trailblazers are finding their voices. But there’s also that nagging voice of complacency that echos halls everywhere, cloaked in the “I’m thinking outside the box” mentality. Newsflash: there is no box.
How might our industry respond to (to quote Lee Clow) “creative people rising up” again? There will always be so many forces working against us- clients, internal politics, ego and beyond, but I believe success is contingent on a great leaders taking a chance the way these guys and gals did. Discovering, fostering/growing and ultimately allowing those people lead is where the magic will happen again. I don’t believe it necessarily has to come from a giant agency context. I would predict smaller, more innovative (to use an overused word), provocative shops will yield some of our brightest new talents. Made by Many, Poke, Sid Lee, but to name a few could be the “next” agency story. Who knows, but it’s not going to be about “where” but “when” and “who”…
This post isn’t about answers (sorry). It’s about the growing list of questions. And demands we MUST place on ourselves. Who will BE the next “legend” in the industry? Will the next title of movie be “Forming of Voltron”? (I certainly hope so!) Are we carrying on the legacies that our agency namesakes started by taking this art to a new level? And ultimately, are we making them proud by reinventing their legacies?