Art or Advertising? The Awards
Show That's Starting a Dialogue
MIKE O'DONNELL / EDITOR
"I started thinking about creating an event that honors artistic work coming from production companies and ad agencies. And who better to judge than art, museum and cinematic curators?" Advertising has long been relegated to the sidelines of artistic discourse, if entertained at all. Maybe there's historically been some merit for that, given the seemingly distinct and differing missions of fine art and advertising. But it's not necessarily better for both worlds to continually be kept confined to their respective corners.
Enter Margery Cohen, Creator and Organizer of the Art of Creativity Awards, who is challenging the notion that Art and Advertising are better on their own. It's an idea that stemmed from panel discussions that Margery held at Soho Houses worldwide. Now, the AOC Awards invites advertising creatives to submit work to be judged on its artistic value by artists and curators from the art, museum, and cinematic scenes. Since its inception in 2015, there have been plenty of positive signs. As Margery notes in our interview, the judges are often in awe of the level of artistry in the submissions. "As a result of combining art and advertising, we’re aiming to push both industries to create new levels of fresh, inventive work. Bridging art and advertising strikes me as a natural progression to reach greater creative heights."
If you work in advertising, submit your work to the competition here by July 30th. There's also a new category for work coming from freelancers and small independent companies: Digital Content 40 Seconds and Under. The screenings of AOC's winning compilation reel and panel discussions with some of the winners are held at Soho House venues around the world.
Illustrations by WNW Member Amrita Marino
What led you to start the Art of Creativity Awards? Was there something missing from the existing awards shows that you felt you could address?
It actually stemmed from panel discussions I organized over at Soho Houses in LA, NY and London that were created as private events for Soho House members and guests. I invited some of the leading CCO’s and ECD’s from major ad agencies to talk about their work and the creative steps involved in the making of commercials and content. The event started with a compilation reel which had some of the panelist’s best work. It was followed by a panel discussion led by leading writers from well-known trade magazines from each city. These events were very well-received and eventually, production companies started reaching out to us asking if they too could participate. And that’s really how it all began.
I started thinking about creating an event that honors artistic work coming from production companies and ad agencies. And who better to judge than art, museum and cinematic curators? Typically, award shows are judged by individuals from within that particular industry which makes sense on some level but in the ad world, where there’s always been a kind of schism between advertising and art, I saw creating AOC as a way to build an important bridge between the two. Our goal is to get a valued opinion from artists who are outside of the advertising industry. That’s what opened the door to the AOC Awards.
Art and advertising are often placed in separate boxes but Art of Creativity aims to bridge those two worlds. Why do you think that’s important?
There was a time when an artist would cringe if you asked them if they wanted to work in advertising; that’s how separated the two worlds used to be. AOC is looking to challenge this past mindset in several ways; first by inviting professionals from the art world to judge our submitted work. Second, we want to provide a platform for discussions and eventual collaborations between the two. And third, we want to push creativity to a new level. As a result of combining art and advertising, we’re aiming to push both industries to create new levels of fresh, inventive work. Bridging art and advertising strikes me as a natural progression to reach greater creative heights. It’s no surprise that we’re seeing a network from both worlds working within the others field; further expanding each other’s limits and opportunities.
Asking yourself “is this art or advertising?” is a good thing.
How are judges selected for the AOC awards? Is a key goal to select preeminent individuals from the art world and encourage them to go out of their critical comfort zones in judging?
AOC selects judges who are art, museum and cinematic curators and others who are well-known artists and art critics. They’re usually very intrigued about the The Art of Creativity’s concept and I found that they don’t really need much encouragement to participate and leave their comfort zones behind. I think they consider it as a fresh medium for them to explore. It piques their interest and as they’re curious people by nature (a common trait among curators and artists), they enjoy taking this leap to use their experience in this environment.
Some judges have even told me how surprised they were that advertising was full of such creativity; that they’ve never seen such creative ads or videos and considered them as a natural extension of art in today’s world.
How has the Art of Creativity awards evolved since its start and how do you see it evolving in the next five years?
We tripled the number of judges compared to when we started back in 2015 with just ten. We’ve also expanded our screenings and discussions to include even more Soho Houses around the world, and in doing so we’ve broadened our global submission base.
As for AOC’s evolution over the next 5 years… I’d love to see us continue to develop in cities around the world known for having a strong art and advertising hub. Those that are as enthusiastic as we are about pushing for greater creativity by combining art and advertising.
What are some of the unexpected surprises of running an awards event? What are some of the challenges that you wish someone had told you about?
Organizing and building AOC was and can still be compared to putting together a 1000-piece puzzle; but, it’s organic and constantly evolving, which is probably a good thing. I’d say that putting together all of the pieces of the puzzle is a delicate balancing act that may be daunting at times. In the end, we just take a step back, hope it comes together and end up resembling the picture on the box.
I guess you can say that I try to ride the tide, look at the big picture each day with fresh eyes and new opportunities without getting too stressed by the little stuff and just trust that everything will fall into place. And for now, it’s been working out.
What would you say to Working Not Working Members thinking of submitting work to the AOC awards?
We’d love to hear from and view WNW members’ work! WNW members are part of an elite community of creatives who produce original work that can be appreciated by our judges and potentially shared at our Soho House screenings with all of our winning work. So yes, we encourage their submissions! It’s a great way to network and learn about work from around the globe.