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Try It, You'll Like It: Commercials Definitely Worth Watching
October 22, 2010  | By Tom Brinkmoeller
 
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If more television commercials had been made by the people profiled on Tuesday's Independent Lens, there would have been no need to invent the mute button. Art & Copy premieres Tuesday, Oct. 26 on PBS (10 p.m. ET, but check local listings), and it offers a satisfying look at what could be called advertising's hall-of-famers -- the people who create commercials we don't want to ignore.

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They include Lee Clow, who made the aired-just-once "1984" Super Bowl commercial introducing the Apple Macintosh; George Lois, whose credits include the "I want my MTV" campaign and the series of ads that introduced designer Tommy Hilfiger; and Mary Wells, whose "I Love New York" and Braniff airlines campaigns broke all kinds of major ground for her clients.

Add interesting interviews with the people who devised "Where's the Beef?" "Got Milk?" and "Just Do It," and the result is an enjoyable and fast-moving 90 minutes. That's not easy to do when the subject is commercials, considered by many the toxic mold that grows on commercial television.

Director Doug Pray, who started work on Art & Copy in 2005, makes it happen. He met the subjects in their offices and, for a few, in their homes, spending enough time with each to get clear pictures of the seldom-examined small world of advertising genius. They explain why and how they developed memorable advertising and why it always wasn't easy. The commercials in question get air time, too.

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Now, a disclaimer: After I left newspapers, I worked in public relations at a number of small advertising agencies. In my collective years in these settings, I never witnessed genius. I was more like a spectator at a road race, bracing for loud and disastrous crashes as self-absorbed creative types ran head-on into imagination-deprived, tightfisted clients.

So you're going to have to trust that the advertising icons in Art & Copy appear to exhibit genius. I have no experience base by which to measure them. But I do kindly remember, after many years, each of the commercials included in this program. I doubt many of us will feel the same way in three or four decades about Progressive Insurance or Sargento Cheese ads.

Think of it this way: If you could have listened to Thomas Edison, Claude Monet or Igor Stravinsky explain the things he did, would you have passed up the chance? Same criterion applies to watching Art & Copy.

Or, as Ms. Wells' agency put it in the '70s: Try it, you'll like it.

 

1 Comment

 

Mac said:

Any chance we get to see Don Draper's Clio award-winning spot for Glo-Coat from the mid-60s?

Comment posted on October 24, 2010 10:12 PM
 
 
 
 
 
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