The Art of Advertising
Perhaps some of you still use AT&T as your service provider, but considering the beating that it has taken in the wake of the iPhone and questionable claims about it being the "most reliable" network, you probably don't. However, the company did have some interesting marketing campaigns, and in 2011, they employed Italian artist Guido Daniele to create country-specific ads using his striking hand-painting art. Daniele was featured on this site back in 2008 for his Handimals, which were probably his most recognizable and popular project to date. However, his nation-specific advertisements for AT&T were some of the most interesting and artistically relevant marketing campaigns in recent years, and they deserve a little love, even if that company has fallen slightly from its pedestal.
Using only a canvas of human hands and the occasional backdrop for effect, Daniele created intricate and stunning worlds that combine art, culture, and technology into a memorable advertisement tool. His career as a body painter stretches back more than two decades, and he has become one of the premiere talents in that fascinating genre of modern art. His Handimals were photorealistic animals painted perfectly on the backs of models' hands, using the natural facets and contours of the human form to mimic animalian anatomy. He expanded that idea into other subjects, which was the versatility he needed for the AT&T campaign.
He created dozens of images that were representative of the different countries where AT&T services were available; his wide-ranging ability as an artist mirrored the sprawling range of the company's service coverage. The campaign took hundreds of hours, and included dozens of different models. It was an immense artistic undertaking, but the fact that it was done for a commissioned advertising campaign is where the discussion really begins.
Art has been connected to commercial ventures for centuries, although the idea of art as a commercial product primarily began with Pop Art in the late 1950's, popularized by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jasper Johns. Stretching farther back, Toulouse Lautrec made art a marketing tool in the Belle Epoque of Paris, and he is considered the spiritual father of modern artistic marketing. It is a proud tradition, and some of the greatest artists of the past century have followed in those footsteps, combining their passion with their popularity for the sake of a brand or company.
However, things have changed in the modern age, and as the progress of society speeds up, it is becoming more and more difficult to make a lasting impact before the "next big thing" hits the market, or a more fabulous and creative marketing campaign sweeps across media platforms. Advanced technology and high production value in commercials and ad campaigns have desensitized us to the talent and time that is required to make something evocative and noteworthy. Perhaps you still use AT&T, but do you remember Guido Daniele's hand-painted ad campaign? In the two years since it first debuted, your attention has been flooded with hundreds of other competing tactics to grab your interest, and more accurately, your money.
The role of art in advertising has definitely shifted, and there is far less of a distinction between something being clever, and something being profoundly important in terms of cultural achievement. I am not setting Guido Daniele's work on the same level as Lichtenstein and Lautrec, yet he served the same function as they did, but with a far less lasting impact. That doesn't speak ill of his abilities, because they are truly masterful and deserving of the international praise he has enjoyed. It speaks more to the throw-away, disposable culture that we've developed in our modern, hyper-connected age. We are always looking towards the future, without appreciating what we are experiencing in the present.
This begs the question, of course, what can be done? I'm not suggesting that I have any answers, merely observations and proverbial food for thought. Perhaps it is time for art to step back from big business and advertising, because despite the attention and cash flow that major commercial artists bring to the artistic community, the damages might outweight the gains. When the lines between commercial interests and artistic integrity begin to disappear, so too does the inherent value of art in society. It is important not to see art as a commercial tool, because it can then be discarded just as easily as an ad campaign like the Budweiser Frogs or any other short-lived and disposable form of entertainment.
Art is supposed to transcend the passage of time, while reminding viewers of the specific time period when it was created. It should tell us something about the state of the world, or about the country where it was conceived, and can stand as a historical marker, just as Warhol did for Pop Art, or Toulouse Lautrec for that legendary era of Parisian life. The modern world is no longer defined by the artistic pursuits and achievements of the day. We are far more concerned with technological innovations and athletic rivalries than abstract concepts like art and beauty. Some of this indifference stems from that crossover that has occurred between commercialism and art, making it just another transient element of our culture. It is easy to imagine that new art will simply take the place of the old, but by accepting that paradigm, we cease to search for artistic greatness.
In short, this article wasn't so much about Guido Daniele as it was about the role of art in today's consumer-driven world. The solution isn't clear, and some may even deny that it is a problem. Granted, commercial of exposure of art does boost interest in specific artists for a short time, but if we cease to look at art as a source of talent and intention that can boost our appreciation and understanding of life, than we have lost sight of art's true purpose.
In my opinion, art should take a step back from the world of commercial advertising, and let modern technology and marketing executives employ their own creativity without double dipping into the pool of artistic talent to sell a product. Guido Daniele's work is extraordinary, but there is no denying that the first thing most people notice, before the intricately laced fingers and painted palms, is the cell phone. Great art should not be relegated to the background; that is why we have galleries and museums dedicated to their ability to stand alone as individual achievements. The further we push art into the background, the closer it resembles a tool that can be used when convenient, and then discarded or forgotten. In my humble opinion, if a work of art has ever served a purpose, even to a single person, than it seems tragic for it to ever be tossed away. Art should be the last bastion of modern life that is indispensable and timeless, while the mobs of the world eagerly await the release of the iPhone 17. But hey, maybe that's just me.
If you want to see all of Guido Daniele's spectacular work, stretching back two decades, then visit his website!
Related Article: Give This Artist A Hand!
All images are subject to copyright by the artist.