Is Advertising Art?

On the first day of class for Promotional Copywriting at UCSD’s Extension Program, my instructor made a statement that struck me as controversial. He said: “advertising isn’t art.” He explained that copywriters need to get used to the fact that our work will be judged, scrutinized, picked apart, and changed. A large part of the class is giving criticism and also being able to take it.

I think if you are a strong writer, you welcome as much feedback as you can on your work, whether it be positive or negative. Perhaps I have a bigger backbone because my master’s program is all about critiquing long bodies of mine and other students’ writing. But, just because copywriting can be critiqued and improved, doesn’t mean it isn’t art. After all, all art forms can be evaluated; if they couldn’t, a lot of art critiques would be out of a job. All writing, whether it be a book, a blog, a newspaper article, or a print ad, can be critiqued, just like film, paintings, and photography can be. What I find so interesting about art is its ability to mix the objective with the subjective.

I recently read a book called: “Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences,” and it compared different art forms and how they have influenced each other. I was surprised to see in the book next to a TIME’s magazine photo of the twin towers exploding a comparison of a foreign airline print advertisement. It was the same twin tower buildings, but they were shot from down below so the towers looked brave and powerful, not crumbling and disastrous.

So I’ve decided that if an art critique who dedicates an entire book to critiquing various art forms considers advertising art, than so can I. If we don’t treat our profession as art, than what does it become, just another job? Advertising copywriting is creative and sometimes more difficult than other types of writing because we have to get a message across quickly and effectively before our ADD audience moves on. We have to be precise, surprising, and witty – all in a matter of a few lines.

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