Ads as Art?

Years ago, Mark Fenske wrote a piece for the the VCU Adcenter (now Brandcenter) titled “Ads is Art.” I wish I had a copy of it. It sparked an interesting conversation in the class I was teaching at the time because, while in spirit advertising and art can be pretty close (especially in ad school), there are some major differences. You only need to watch about two minutes of a commercial break to see that very little real advertising should even be considered in this conversation.


I recently finished the book Adland, by former copywriter and creative director James Othmer. In it, he actually asks Fenske this very question. Is advertising art? He gets a gruff snort from Fenske. Then, after some consideration, Othmer gives what I think is the most insightful answer to the question I’ve ever heard:

“It doesn’t matter whether I think advertising is art. What matters is whether its creator does.”