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Art & Copy

Art & Copy

Director: Doug Pray

Cast: David Kennedy, Chad Tiedeman, George Lois

The advertising industry in America exists in a paradox -- while it's all but impossible to go a day without being exposed to the work of leading figures in the advertising business, very little is known about the people behind the ads and the process by which they're created. Filmmaker Doug Pray offers a rare look inside the business of advertising in the documentary


The advertising industry in America exists in a paradox -- while it's all but impossible to go a day without being exposed to the work of leading figures in the advertising business, very little is known about the people behind the ads and the process by which they're created. Filmmaker Doug Pray offers a rare look inside the business of advertising in the documentary Art & Copy, in which he profiles a number of the most respected men and women in the ad game as they talk about their work, their motivations, and their views on the creative process. Pray's interview subjects include Lee Clow, who created memorable television spots for Apple's Macintosh computer and later their iPod MP3 player; Rich Silverstein and Jeff Goodby, who gave new life to the dairy industry with the "Got Milk?" campaign; Hal Riney, who helped put Ronald Reagan in the White House with his "Morning in America" TV spot; George Lois, who remade popular culture by coining the slogan "I Want My MTV"; and Mary Wells, the first woman to run a major ad agency and the creator of the "I (heart) New York" campaign. Sponsored in part by the One Club, an organization dedicated to excellence in advertising, Art & Copy received its world premiere at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Nathan Southern
To triumph at their craft, advertising executives must exercise some of the greatest unsung wizardry in contemporary Western life. Many others from countless fields can claim varying levels of creative activity and invention, but novelists, filmmakers, sculptors, painters, playwrights, and musicians have the gifts of time and space to work out their visions. In the ad industry, however, one's entire reputation may rest on a 30- or 40-second pitch, or -- even more overwhelmingly -- a four- or five-word slogan. Get it right, the client will feel satisfied and the public will buy. Fail to pull it off, and careers will be destroyed and reputations soiled, perhaps irrevocably so. That excruciating challenge justifies some of the unchecked adulation inherent in Doug Pray's varnished paean to the lords of the ad world, the documentary Art & Copy. Pray assembled a cadre of subjects that includes some of the most revered figures in the industry, such as Hal Riney, David Kennedy, Lee Clow, and the inimitable George Lois, and lets them expostulate on the highs and lows of their careers and the meaning of the craft per se, while interpolating frequent cutaways to their most successful ads, many of which now court legendary reputations. Given the extraordinary color of the personalities on display and the enjoyment of revisiting everything from the LBJ election "Countdown" ad to the Wendy's "Where's the Beef?" spots, the film hooks the audience -- how could it not? -- and many of the insights carry real weight and poignancy, while the anecdotes sustain fascination. The documentary is perhaps most noteworthy for suavely divorcing creative selling from the notion of the unethical; Pray repeatedly argues that the crème de la crème of the ad world are sincere, dedicated men and women who genuinely care about their craftsmanship -- some of whom even pulled from their own personal experiences to shape campaigns, such as Riney, creator of the famous "Morning in America" Reagan reelection spots. The writer-director even demonstrates (in an extraordinary sequence, via a discussion of the "Just Do It" strategy devised by Wieden+Kennedy for Nike) that select campaigns have the capacity to touch and reshape lives in a positive way that towers high above market figures. Pray also generates interest by reflecting on the degree to which advertising fuels the growth of technology and thus reshapes the world both directly and indirectly. At one point, Lee Clow recalls his agency's initial ads for Macintosh computers (c. January 1984, a visually explosive riff on George Orwell's 1984), which play onscreen while he discloses the irony that "everything that was done to launch that product is now done differently, because of that product -- the editing of film, the editing of music and sound -- all the production tools that go into television." While Clow is speaking, Pray pulls back to reveal the editing of that particular interview on a Macintosh computer. Some may find this device too precious, but it ingeniously gets the point across. For all of its strengths, however, the film carries two key weaknesses. First, it seems to lack a structure -- to such a degree that it threatens to turn into a series of essayistic riffs on its central subject. It seems loose, floppy, and casual, as if it could seemingly fork off in any direction. That has its benefits -- Pray maintains such an easygoing groove at times that one may feel inclined to let the film go where it will -- but a more definitive thematic or temporal chronology would help. The second major weakness is simply the growing awareness that for every pro-advertising argument in the film, a serious criticism of the industry (its propagandistic brainwashing, its emotional manipulation, its contributions to poor self-esteem and feelings of personal inadequacy) exists on the other side of the spectrum. Pray may believe that he covers this adequately, with intertitles on the screen that present overwhelming numbers about the pervasiveness of commercial advertising in modern American life. Instead, these titles simply point to the film's unfulfilled need to explore these ideas at length. In the end, however, Art & Copy manages to partially transcend these weaknesses via the magnetic personalities and infectious humor of its interviewees, and numerous fascinating insights into its central subject.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Pbs (Direct)
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby Digital Stereo]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Closed Caption; Bonus footage: more copy...less art

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
David Kennedy Participant
Chad Tiedeman Participant
George Lois Participant
Phyllis K. Robinson Participant
Jim Durfee Participant
Mary Wells Participant
Charlie Moss Participant
Hal Riney Participant
Jean-Yves LeGall Participant
Lee Clow Participant
Cliff Freeman Participant
Tommy Hilfiger Participant
Rich Silverstein Participant
Jeff Goodby Participant
Jeff Manning Participant
Dan Wieden Participant
Ed Rollins Participant
Liz Dolan Participant

Technical Credits
Doug Pray Director
David Baldwin Executive Producer
Gregory Beauchamp Executive Producer
Jimmy Greenway Producer
Jeff Martin Score Composer
Michael Nadeau Producer
Peter Nelson Cinematographer
Philip Owens Editor
Kirk Souder Executive Producer
Mary Warlick Executive Producer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Art & Copy
1. Messengers/Prologue [5:05]
2. The Creative Revolution [13:07]
3. Westward Expansion [11:22]
4. Brutal Simplicity [15:06]
5. Fail Harder [7:27]
6. Brand Personality [8:17]
7. Moving People [11:22]
8. Art or Pollution [9:04]
9. Launch [4:10]
10. Credits [3:09]


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