Netflix recently recommended this documentary to me based on what I’d assume my like of a string of documentaries I’ve watched recently, and probably my marathon of Mad Men, which is a recent favorite show added to my list of enjoyable TV. For those completely unaware as to what Mad Men is or what it’s about, it’s a drama on AMC about a Madison Avenue advertising company that takes place in the 60’s. Since it’s been on the air and winning Emmy’s, I constantly ignored the show… but I’m going to stop myself from raving of it’s awesomeness since this about Art & Copy.
This documentary looks at the craft of advertising in today’s world. It looks at both print ads, and those 30 seconds people like me fast forward when we’re watching TV shows on DVR. Just like Mad Men, the film took a peek at ad work from the 60’s as it moved down the timeline to the popular jingles and slogans of yesteryear, from “Where’s the beef?” to “Just do it” to “got milk?” More than likely, you’ve seen or heard of these before. If not, you’ve probably been living inside of a large rock, buried under a much larger rock.
The subjects of the film were various agencies discussing their humble beginnings or how they came up with the genius campaigns that helped their accounts make billions and keep them a household name/product for years to come. The interesting fact with some of these ads is simply dumb luck. Anytime you do something creative to catch people’s interest (and ultimately their pockets), there’s always risk of failing.
I’m going to take a moment now that this was the final push that made me decide to take my idea of a production company seriously. I’ve made a few commercials for class earlier this year, followed by a real one for a real business I’m still working on. While ad agencies aren’t the same as production companies, they do work very closely together. So from watching what these guys in the film do and applying the skills I’ve learned the past year, why not take a risk and gamble on myself?
What had me freaking out at the thought of making commercials is: how will I ever come up with ideas for the next guy who asks me for an ad? Do I have it in me to constantly crank out ideas? Fortunately, the film answered this question within the first few minutes. One guy said that they wake up everyday feeling that same kind of anxiety. So in other words, even for the professionals, not knowing what’ll happen next is completely normal. As irony would have it, their anxiety calmed me down.
Then I thought back to Mad Men and how those characters go through the same thing, trying to figure out a creative way to sell their client’s products. If their idea sucked and was shot down, they went back to the drawing board until brilliance struck again.
So the documentary didn’t show what the failures might have looked like, or ideas that didn’t quite pan out. Basically the ugly side of advertising wasn’t really shown. I don’t know what that looks like. But something that has stuck with me is “Fail Harder,” which something of a motto and/or billboard to remind everyone involved that mistakes are encouraged, or at least that’s how I interpret it. There are dozens of quotes out there about making mistakes and learning from failure, but that one in particular summed it up best. Although one of the ad men spoke of failure differently in a way that begs me to go back and watch it again to take everyone’s words to heart as if they are giving me golden advice nuggets.
As a film, I’m sure it’ll be enlightening to those interested in the behind the scenes of some of the most popular commercials over the decades. As a device for those looking to get into the business, I think it might be a priority. Just as a bit of a warning, there is some adult language, so watch out for that should you be offended by frankness.
My final thoughts about this goes back to the “Fail Harder” concept and the “Just do it” slogan. I’ve never been a fan of the word “try” because it implies that you’re already setting yourself up for failure, or almost implying that you won’t succeed. With that kind of mentality, one might not give their all to accomplish that goal they are “trying” to do. Instead, you just do it. Win or lose, you went for it with all you had.