Can Advertising be Considered Art?

15 March 2019
By : Freddy Fajardo

I’ll admit, many advertisements are far from being a masterpiece, but there is art in ads. In fact, you can find plenty of artistry in advertising around the world.

You see, I’ve been working in advertising for over two decades, and while many people may see me as a designer on the surface, I am truly an artist at heart. I enjoy the privilege of running back and forth between the two worlds because both are so equally exciting and rewarding. People often say drawing comes easy to me, but in all fairness, it is the result of an unshakable desire to overcome a struggle and fierce discipline.

I’m always chasing art because I love it. It’s a trap I’m well aware of, yet I never stop falling for; it’s an unfair battle waiting to be lost. I know in time, this medium will be obsolete, this message will be lost, and the images on the screen will soon be buried under the next big thing. To me, art is not limited to the conventional idea of visual, aural, or tactile forms of expressions you find in museums, auditoriums, and walls, because it can also be present in what you do.

impressionism art couple of kids art in advertising
creative process of a burrito compared with art

I grew up with an appreciation for the effort and passion that some people put into their work, even when it’s not what they’d love to be doing. Their repeated actions to make something better create a pattern that I have come to understand as art. You can find it everywhere, but to recognize it, you have to see things from a different perspective; it can be as simple as mastering the art of making a burrito. It’s all about honing in on your abilities and taking pride in your craft, whatever it may be at this very moment.

By removing your ego from the equation, you can achieve a greater good. The best design adheres to this statement. The most powerful messages have only a few words. The most memorable images have only a few details. And the most beautiful designs have only a few perfectly arranged elements.

I guess the commercial connotation is what ruins it for most people. We like to think of art as a pure activity people engage in just for the love of it, and not for the profit. However, history reveals that most renowned artists were at the mercy of the clergy or royalty. That means most of their masterpieces were commissioned works and could also be considered a form of advertising. Whether they were religious or political, they were pushing some form of a message. Even in the 1900s, artists were paid to skillfully render ads for companies and bring their brand to life with their unique style. I invite you to look at some commercial work from artists like Alphonse Mucha, Henri de Tolousse Lautrec, Steve Penley, and Norman Rockwell. They have all created ad-masterpieces in their own right –and today, most of us work with the same objective in mind.

That’s artvertising at its rawest form, but in the more recent past, technology has allowed us to use different mediums beyond paint and sculptures to push our messages. For example, a car company got people around the world to “Think Small,” and fall in love with the Volkswagen Beetle. In 1997, Apple convinced us to “Think different,” and we proceeded to purchase the same model of a personal computer. Similar to the commissioned paintings of the past, the latter campaigns used art in advanced mediums to push a message that changes your mental perception of their product. Aka creativity working for businesses, aka generate more sales.

digital art unknown autor role of art in advertising

“We do not make good art, we just let it happen.”
Russian painter Costa Dvorezky

volkswagen lemon art in advertising

At the end of the day, advertising is essentially the art of selling. If you need further proof, watch this excerpt from the hit-show, Mad Men. Throughout history, advertising and art have continued to be interdependent. Without advertising, we would have lost the primary source of funding for all the amazing commissioned works we see before us today. Without art, advertisements would be dull, flavorless, and far from effective. I find it captivating that this commercial world can comfortably clash with the colorful population of creative artists and ultimately create a sustainable sanctuary for everyone to get along.

If you made it this far, it means you care about art too, so I’ll leave you with this:


“Great art is always designed; great design is always art.”

-Freddy Fajardo


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