In Search of Beauty in Advertising

Recently, a colleague of mine at Wunderkind gave me the wonderful gift of a two-volume set of books titled “Advertising from the Mad Men Era.” What struck me as I flipped through the pages is the sheer beauty of many of the ads, from cigarette ads to campaigns promoting Pan Am and TWA. The photography, illustration and copy – were artful. And beautiful to look at. You could frame many of these ads and put them on your wall. You knew that well-trained and erudite writers, and art directors with serious artistic chops, developed many of these ads.

What has happened to that aesthetic sensibility and excellence in advertising? When was the last time you saw an ad and its very beauty inspired you to linger, to savour, to desire? It’s so uncommon these days. Humour, flashy special effects, celebrities or mere product attributes, rule the day.

So this post is really a call to action. A call to return to beauty in advertising. Case in point: I finally took a close look at that awful Chanel No. 5 ad starring Brad Pitt. So uninspiring. Irrelevent copy. Bland black and white, no music. And the mistaken assumption that Brad is so alluring unto himself, that merely staring at him is enough. Compare this to the iconic Chanel No. 5 ad from several years ago based on Little Red Riding Hood. A campaign that seduced you, and made you remember why this perfume is the world’s most famous and desirable.

Beauty counts. Beauty is memetic. And it never goes out of style.