Doug Pray's 2009 Sundance entry Art & Copy finally hit DVD and Netflix Instant this week, and I'm always intrigued about the advertising world so I consumed it immediately. But that was extremely underwhelming so I went looking for another documentary on the topic and came upon the 2004 Frontline episode The Persuaders. Does the PBS series count as documentary in the way I approach it here? I don't want to discuss that just now. I will say, though, that this isn't the first time I've been more fulfilled in my cravings by a Frontline episode after watching an unsatisfying doc feature. Following my viewing of Robert Greenwald's Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Living, for example, I checked out the much better Frontline: Is Wal-Mart Good for America?
Art & Copy and The Persuaders aren't quite as similarly focused as the Wal-Mart films. The former concentrates on the creative side of advertising while the latter is more interested in the psychology and marketing aspects. Yet they do have some interesting parallels. Each spotlights an airline that went out of business (Braniff in A&C; Song in F:TP). Each spotlights the re-election campaign of a Republican president (Reagan; Bush). And each puts some attention on Apple, though A&C pretty much comes across as an Apple ad itself, while F:TP basically classifies the success of the Mac branding as cultish. As in the negative sort of cult, not the positive connotations that go with entertainment-based terms like "cult classic" and "cult following."