Ads Inspired By Artworks

Today I saw a Public Service Announcement on TV that sounded eerily familiar. It’s so new that I actually can’t find a video of it online (wouldn’t you think they’d try to have their PSAs everywhere – especially online where the kids are hanging these days?) so I’ll have to describe it.

Here’s the scene: a mother is talking to her daughter in the front hall of their house about drugs she found while she is waving them around in a plastic baggie (it wouldn’t be complete without the plastic baggie). Instead of the usual melodramatic conversations they have in these sorts of situations, the actors are describing their comments such as the mother saying: “alarming accusation” and the daughter saying: “defensive evasive response,” to which the mother replies something like, “horrible comment I will regret later.”

Now, don’t quote me on this because I was only half watching while working on my computer at the same time so the words aren’t exact but the premise is clear: a perfect post-modern comment on how we communicate. The only reason why I even noticed the PSA at all is because I’ve heard the exact same premise from the Neo-Futurists. In fact, this same bit was highlighted on the “20 Acts in 60 Minutes” episode of This American Life that you can listen to for free here.

This echo got me to thinking about the other artistic echoes I see on TV in particular where advertisers have been influenced by artists. I did some digging online and see that others are taking notice too. This is so pervasive these days that while I was ruminating on the subject I saw ANOTHER commercial (the Chevy one below) that also fits into this category.

There was quite a bit of chatter about the AT&T commercial when it came out and some discussion of the others as well. The two main sides in these discussions seem to be those who think that the ad agencies “ripped off” the artists and are mad that these artistic ideas are being used to sell things while the other side thinks that ideas are fair game.

I’m somewhere in the middle. Certainly if there was some inspiration from an artist or an art project (you make the call below) then I think that some credit should be given to the original work especially if it is for commercial purposes. However, We live in a post-modern, remix culture where the lines are blurry as to who thought of the idea first. As Mark Twain once said: “Adam was the only man who, when saying a good thing, knew that nobody had said it before him.”

Here are 3 more prime examples of this phenomenon. Enjoy, Mari



Her Morning Elegance



Amazon Kindle


Goody Simple Styles



Dear Photograph


Looking into the Past


Ben Heine



Chevy Then & Now



The Gates



AT&T Rethink Possible


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2 responses to “Ads Inspired By Artworks”

  1. Duncan Mc says :

    I was totally thinking the same thing with the gates and the AT&T commercial! Do you think they did that on purpose?

    • Mari says :

      Yeah – me too – the first time I saw the commercial I couldn’t believe it wasn’t related. Then, I looked it up online and saw that not only did Christo and Jeanne-Claude have nothing to do with the commercial, AT&T was asked after viewers pointed out the glaring similarities they added a disclaimer at the end. If you saw the commercial a few weeks later it said that the images have no relation or affiliation with the artists. The ad company who did the commercial is the legendary BBDO, which is also mentioned on Mad Men a lot. Interesting, huh?

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