Can art and brands mix?
The Blogfather looks for inspiration for the day job in Banksy's Dismaland, whilst mulling if art and brands are compatible.
“Advertising is not fine art. Advertising is applied art. It’s the same as the difference between pure-math and applied-math. Pure math makes discoveries, but it doesn’t know what for. Applied math works out how to use those discoveries in the real world.” - Dave Trott
I read a piece on what Dismaland can teach brands recently, which I did not think was particularly good, but it did succeed in getting me blog-pondering.
Described by the man himself as “entry-level anarchism”, Dismaland is, on a personal level, a bit of me. In part, it stands for attempting to smash the faux-sincere crap that pervades through a lot of large corporations' sweet-veneered branding, like these ads from McDonald’s we did not like.
Dismaland reminds me a little of Phoenix Nights. It was constructed on, dare I say it, slightly sentimental foundations of coastal entertainment erosion. This is a significant part of why it works. Spending a day at the seaside used to be what most people could only afford to do for a holiday. People do hanker for a bit of nostalgia, no more so than in their Christmas ads. But Dismaland gives nostalgia a slap and a twist that's refreshing, whilst throwing in some satire and anarchy for good measure. There was an evocativeness and poignancy to the location, and for 5 weeks it made decent, contemporary art a lot more accessible and affordable.
There are some elements to Dismaland that have echoes of savvy marketing. Fueling the already big demand by an engineered lack of availability. The website ‘crashed’, so people could not book, making people even more keen to get hold of tickets. Some of the larger mobile phone companies are purported to hold back new stock so the flagship stores ‘run out’, thus fuelling demand.
I doubt the outdoor advertising, monopoly chasing behemoth JC Decaux would approve of what was to be found in one tent: would-be anarchists could be shown how to unlock the Adshel posters seen at bus stops. For just five pounds the tools to break into them could be bought, replacing official posters with any propaganda that suits their cause. Defacing and putting up unauthorised posters was something we suggested for some entry-level marketing anarchy in a previous blog as we explored how, just as it has worked for Banksy, a bit of controversy can go a long way.
There will always be some snobbery in regards to art and its relationship with marketing and commerce, as shown by Woody Allen’s statement:
“I’m an artist, I do not do commercials.”
Certainly, if Banksy was commissioned to do an ambient ad campaign for Cathedral City cheddar in all the cathedral cities of England, as much as I personally think that Norwich would be a better place for it, Banksy would be denounced by most as a sell out.
But by way of serving up a counter point, we make no apologies for giving you another Dave Trott pearler:
“Advertising is not fine art. Advertising is applied art. It’s the same as the difference between pure-math and applied-math. Pure math makes discoveries, but it doesn’t know what for. Applied math works out how to use those discoveries in the real world.”
With branding images everywhere (the average person seeing some 5000 images a day), it is only natural that logos and straplines get cut up and malformed to become a medium that artists play with. And conversely, for us lot working in marketing and advertising, taking a bit of inspiration from the art world is never a bad thing. We do like to share a high percentage of what you could call art pieces via our social media at Gasp, so it’s always worth a follow.
Ambient adverts are where art and brands seem to find a happy medium. Clever, well crafted ideas that carry meaning. There is certainly a bit of the Banksy’s and the YBA movement about this Doom Fogger ambient ad for a cockroach pesticide. I'm not sure who inspired who, but most likely it was a case of great minds think alike.
Some call Banksy a brand. I don’t think he is a brand (well, I'm sure he would hate that label), but his work has a distinct, immediately recognisable individuality that some brands would kill for. If we can learn anything from him, and Dismaland, it is: remain authentic, never compromise on your convictions, don’t become a ‘me too’ entity, and don’t be afraid to put some large noses out of joint.