Sunday morning I watched Art & Copy, a documentary on the advertising industry. I took two main points from the film, and I think they’re worth sharing. Firstly, I love what Liz Dolan, former head of marketing at NIKE, had to say about quality: “I understand why people trash advertising, because a lot of advertising is trashy. People aren’t really aspiring to do something creative or illuminating or inspiring. They’re aiming low.” If I apply this thought process to art, I understand why fine art is intimidating and why almost any creative endeavor is usually met with at least doubt, if not contempt or ,even worse, apathy. There is a lot of bad art out there. Of course ‘bad’ is a subjective term, but speaking generically, art that is insulting or intimidating to the average member of society is so because it is presented poorly. Artists MUST police themselves; they must be able to take criticism and be able to criticize themselves to keep bad ideas off the streets.
Advertising (and I would argue art, as well) is an industry built on negativity and censorship. Hopefully, in any firm, it’s censorship of bad ideas. As a creative person, you have to edit yourself- no one can guarantee to have only good ideas. Being a creative professional is risky because of the lack of formulaic manufacturing of good ideas- we come up with bad ideas just as often. We have to work through them and figure out which ones we need to trash and which ones we need to nurture. And creative people need a nurturing environment to instill the courage it takes to come up with bad ideas before they can get to the good ones.
That sort of nurturing comes in different forms, but I love the giant wall piece in Wieden/Kennedy.
Fail Harder is a beautiful statement about what kind of attitude it takes to have big ideas. As David Kennedy put it “It’s like Babe Ruth swinging for a home-run. If you miss, you miss, but at least you swung the bat as hard as you could.” Art & Copy connects this to the 1999 Air Jordan campaign that ends in Michael saying, “I have failed over and over again in my career. And that is why I succeed.”