Art & Copy – Movie Review

As the glossiest of colored glossies this film delivers a message than creativity is still alive in America.  But the main reward seems to be corporate bottom lines

Probably the best parade of the most creative minds in America today “Art and Copy” is a filmic club of people who can justifiably claim more responsibility for affecting the way Americans think than the presidents of the 20th century combined.  These are the modern advertising titans who sell you the majority of what you buy, whether you like it or not.  The writers and distributors of ad campaigns such as “Got Milk?,” “Where’s the Beef?,” “Just Do It” and the unforgettable ad that killed off the Budweiser frogs take the time to share their secrets with the consuming public and, yes, maybe sell you some more.

The best part of this movie is the story of modern advertising.  This started in the 1960s when Mary Wells enabled Braniff Airlines to put sophistication in to flying.  She started with an industry that had more in common with military transports than chic intercontinental jet-setting, invented the concept of the Barbie doll stewardess outfitted with a designer skirt and took Braniff to the top.  Of course, this was back when it was still actually enjoyable to fly.

Well’s idea was to make advertising fun; make it entertainment instead of a lecture.  Although there is no doubt that other campaigns were successful, her campaigns brightened the consumers’ world while lightening their pocketbooks.  Her seminal influence was followed by campaigns such as the original Apple computer ad which made history by not showing the product.  Instead it showed how a person could change the world with a personal computer.  Forget the product and sell inspiration and you will never have to work another day.

The Nike campaign “Just Do It” was inspired by the last words of a serial killer as he headed for the electric chair.  The “Where’s the Beef” campaign was ordered snuffed by corporate heads before it barely escaped the trash can and become one of the blockbusters of all time selling that king of the junk food chain, the Wendy’s hamburger.

The one thing that the viewer does not want to do while watching this film is start thinking about the ultimate impact of all this genius.  These stories are such wonderful examples of pure American in-your-face non-conformity that it spoils it all if it is reduced to simply selling shoes or airplane tickets.  One mega-selling executive points out that Toulouse Lautrec only wanted to direct business to the Follies when he created his posters.  Modern ad campaigns morph into fine art when they are done right.

In spite of the art of feel-good consumerism there will be some who watch the film and are forced to ask “What’s It All About, Alfie?”  Are we really a better country because Wendy’s experienced a sharp spike in sales or Braniff populated the skies with short-skirted models?  If people didn’t buy Nike jogging shoes and bought other brands instead would American be worse off for it? 

The gist of the message seems to be that advertising does not have to be just a dull transmission of information but can be entertainment and even art.  But is this the best way for us to get art and entertainment?  The more one thinks about this film the more one sees the movie for what it is; an advertisement for advertisers.  It is the ultimate feel good promotion for feel good promotions, wrapped up in a film.  The fact that films are enjoyable mostly because of their lack of advertisement doesn’t seem to faze these guys a bit. 

Although a fun movie to watch and a work of consumer art, in the end it is more about promotion and consumption than entertainment.

Directed by: Doug Pray
Written by: Gregory Beauchamp and Kirk Souder (original concept) and Timothy J. Sexton (narrative consultant)

Featuring: Ben Bernanke, Phil Gramm and Henry Paulson

Release: August 21, 2009
MPAA: Not Rated
Runtime: 90 minutes
Country: USA 
Language: English
Color: Color