Doug Pray | 2009 | 88 mins | USA
Watching giants in any industry talk about taking risks, breaking down walls and being revolutionary is interesting, but its especially fascinating in an industry as much maligned as advertising. Indeed, even the titans interviewed in Art & Copy would agree that 99% of the 5,000 ads that an average person sees every day are crap. Still, they strive to make the mind-blowing ones, and most of them apparently do it by being wildly eccentric nut jobs, bless 'em.
We get to meet the man who created the Apple 1984 commercial (it's Lee Clow, the guy in the photo, above), the guys who came up with "just do it" and "got milk?", the woman who invented the "Me generation" or the guy who took Tommy Hilfiger from unknown upstart to multi-billionaire nearly overnight. Doug Pray is careful to reproduce most of the important campaigns, which are a treat to watch, especially when it comes to the harder to find ads (such as the profoundly disturbing "Daisy" ad used for Lyndon B. Johnson's presidential campaign).
When George Lois (the guy behind the Hilfiger ads) says he doesn't remember ever failing in his life, because the moment you start to analyze your failures, you're fucked, the entire business is neatly encapsulated. It really can take a lot of persistence and thick skin to get through the hundreds of layers of bullshit client requests and setbacks to get an idea as simple and undeniably effective as "where's the beef?" approved.
Doug Prey's tribute to the art of advertising is slick, stylish, and very compelling in this Mad Men-obsessed moment in time. It only suffers from one major problem. The project was initially conceived by The One Club, an organization dedicated to celebrating excellence in advertising, which wanted to do something to showcase its own hall of famers. While the members of The One Club's hall of fame truly are some of the biggest and most important names in advertising, they don't comprise an exhaustive list, and some omissions are really noticeable. A discussion of branding that doesn't even mention the cola wars seems odd. Indeed, Coca Cola only obliquely makes it into the film as part of the soundtrack, which at one point plays "I'd like to teach the world to sing", one of Coke's most famous campaigns. I guess nobody from McCann-Erickson circa 1971 is in The One Club's hall of fame?