How Did Pop Art Movement Influence Modern Branding and Advertisement?

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This essay will explore how specific art pieces from various artists within the Pop Art movement have contributed to the birth of branding and advertising and what influence it still has on modern design. It will identify how brands use the Pop Art style within their current marketing tactics to sell products, ideas, or services.

Argument

Art and graphic design are connected to the development of modern-day technology, our media and politics around the world. Because of this, graphic design is constantly being moulded by the world around us at the same time as having the power to influence it.

Designers are commonly inspired by current political themes, cultures, and religions that surround them, either intentionally or unintentionally. They use their art to express opinions, emotions and to tell stories. In today's modern society, companies have harnessed the use of art to express ideas and trigger the emotions of their audience to influence and even manipulate their consumers.

There is no other art movement that understands the power of consumerism and advertisement than Pop Art. To understand how Pop Art has greatly influenced brand advertising we first need to look at where the movement has come from. One of the first famous art pieces to emerge from the post-war art movement was Richard Hamilton’s collage ‘Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing?’ in 1956. The idea of the collage was to mimic a poster and catalogue advertisement. Hamilton combined cut out advertisements from popular magazines where he removed images from their original context and placed into an entirely new composition but still managed to hold some of the original meaning.

The title of the collage asks the audience a question and the images within the design allow viewers to come to their own conclusion, addressing the idea that consumerism was creating a fantasy world that promised escape from the post-war life in Britain. There was this idea that new advancements in domestic products, such as vacuum cleaners, allowed consumers to have more free time to experience other pleasures such as watching talking films on television due to the advancement in technology. The beautiful, glamorous couple portrayed as the type of people living in today’s home also contributes to the fantasy that consumers desperately want and feel they can achieve if they own all those objects around them. Although Hamilton suggests that consumerism is being used to fill a void or used as a form of escapism, he also recognized that mass production and mass consumerism was a fact of life.

Hamilton also wanted to remind people that modern art frequently takes inspiration from previous movements, and he did this by repurposing images to create something new. By doing this, Hamilton highlighted that mass media was no longer a place that only included art from Western culture that was thought to be highly ranked and believed this idea had become outdated. He became aware of new trends within the market being engineered through advertising as people began to have access to art and culture through magazines and fashion instead of museums and galleries.

The shift in art becoming more easily accessible and inclusive combined with the awareness of post-war austerity and culture of mass production led to the birth of the Independent Group. Rationing from the war extended into the mid-fifties, so the idea of exciting new products and technologies emerging would have been exciting to the younger generation of artists. Advertisements were harnessing the influence they had over consumers by playing on the huge range of consumer choice and sense of escapism. This IG was a group of young artists, including Hamilton, that believed modern art should mimic mass production and the idea that everything should be inclusive and easily accessible. The Independent Group are arguable known for constructing Pop Art.

Lawrence Alloway, a member of the IG, said the group discovered it wasn’t art, architecture, design, or art criticism that they had in common, but states “mass produced urban culture, movies, advertising, science fiction and pop music”. We felt none of the dislike of commercial culture standard among most intellectuals, but accepted it as fact, discussed it in detail, and consumed it enthusiastically. One result of our discussions was to take Pop culture out of the realm of ‘“escapism”, ‘sheer entertainment’, ‘relaxation’, and to treat it with the seriousness of art” (1966, ‘Pop Art’, p.31-32). Alloway believed Pop Art was “a friendly way of saying mass media” (1966, ‘Pop Art’, p.31-32). The term was first introduced between 1954-1955 and originally used to describe products of mass media. It wasn’t until the term began being used in frequent talks within the Independent Group that they turned it into a label for the movement.

Because of its sociological intentions, pop was mostly disapproved of by society in Britain and America in its first stages. Andy Warhol was criticized for stating he wanted to be a machine, possibly because society misunderstood Pop Art and still felt threatened by mechanization and mass production.

Andy Warhol was one of the core pop artists to emerge from America. At the time, they had no group of fellow artists unlike the IG formed in Britain and no manifesto. Both groups worked independently from one another, although they did all vaguely share a similar style of vibrant designs and made use of existing materials taken from the commercial environment.

Warhol was an advertising and magazine illustrator who focused on creating mass produced commercial goods. Warhol’s art not only focused on the new America formed by great economic growth, but also revealed the darker aspects of American culture such as troubled celebrities and tragic events by conveying “symbols of the harsh, impersonal products and brash materialistic objects on which America is built today” (1996, Warhol). His keen interest in celebrity culture and mass media has been described as obsessive, which ironically made him complicit in the perpetuation and manipulation of celebrity culture.

Warhol’s obsession likely developed during his childhood when the neurological disorder he suffered from often left him bed ridden. During this period, Warhol would draw and read comics or celebrity magazines for entertainment and as a form of escapism. The media he was consuming began to influence the topics of his artwork.

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Pop Art’s role within media expanded into anything that could be consumed in popular culture, from magazines, newspapers, television, music, and fashion. The movement is a constant cycle of being influenced by the media by drawing themes from popular mass culture such as advertisements, comic books and consumed products, and influencing the media by continuing to feed into popular culture. This is something Warhol was aware of very early on and is reflected in the type of subjects he used for his art. A great example is his ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans’. A seemingly mundane, every day, mass produced object that is instantly recognizable. Emerging younger artists like Warhol were interested in creating art from cultural icons that was familiar or had some sort of meaning to them. Warhol used product labels and celebrities for his imagery. This may have contributed to Pop Art’s popularity, because the audience could relate to the things, they saw in their everyday lives more than the fine art being produced from previous movements. ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans’ became a series of artwork exhibited in a Los Angeles exhibition show in July 1962. The collection of artworks was presented in a line as if placed on a shop shelf. The paintings were created using a printmaking method originally used for advertising. Using this process, Warhol was able to print the can design repeatedly onto different canvases and then paint the finer details on after. The process of creating the art itself, and the way in which it was exhibited creates a literal depiction of mass consumption. The repetitiveness of imagery reflects the way in which advertisements are used to infiltrate the consumers consciousness.

When reflecting on his art, Warhol said the ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans’ was his favorite piece. It was created in the same year Pop Art began emerging as the new and exciting main movement. The idea was inspired by a friend who suggested Warhol painted something that everybody would recognize.

Pop Art became a movement that showed advertising was a form of art and consumed all areas of popular culture from fashion to music. At the same time artists such as Warhol were emerging in America, Peter Blake was breaking into the Pop Art scene in Britain. Blake is a well-known artist who designed album covers for musicians such as The Beatles and Elvis Presley. His most famous cover being for The Beatles’ 1967 album ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’. The cover is a collage of 70 different popular culture personalities, from musicians, celebrities and sports athletes. This was a theme frequently used by Blake in his work and many other artists within the Pop movement. The broad use of popular culture from different industries symbolizes the seemingly limitless possibilities at the time with mass consumerism. The album cover itself ended up becoming a piece of artwork that was mass produced and distributed world-wide. Peter Blake is said to have only been paid a one-off payment of £200 for the album artwork which he said, “wasn’t fair at the time”, however, he was successful in creating artwork that became genuinely popular and enjoyed by the masses.

Like other artists within the Pop Art movement, Blake was inspired by his immediate environment, taking ideas from culture and advertisements. During the early sixties, he began experimenting with collages. Jann Hamworth watched Blake’s style evolve whilst working alongside him and recalled that “early in the sixties Peter had done some things, cutting out Victoria heads, engraving, sticking them down, then doing a circus act in front of that” (Peter Blake, Natalie Rudd, p.55).

Playing with collage has inevitably influenced the outcome of his Beatles album cover design. The idea of taking imagery from various popular sources and combing them together to build something new is prevalent in Pop Art and can be linked back to Hamilton’s ‘Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing?’. The Pop Art movement allowed artists to repeat previous ideas and use existing media to produce new ones. It also allowed art to cross over into all creative industries. Blake and Jann’s cover design is a great representation of art being created by bringing together various elements. The set they built was a mixture of 2D and 3D figures. Madame Tussaud’s generously lent them some famous figures and others were cardboard cut outs created by Jann. It not only became a collaboration with art and music, but with different creatives within the art industry.

Pop Art and the ideas that fueled the movement are still prevalent in today’s society. Art is regularly re-purposed by brands and advertisements because it is familiar, and a sense of familiarity makes consumers more likely to view them as being trustworthy. Comparably to Blakes album cover design for The Beatles, today’s brands will use imagery of likeable celebrities within their adverts and designs to their advantage. In our current online culture, they are known as ‘influencers’. If you associate a brand with a popular celebrity that you are a fan of, you are more likely to trust their product or services.

The use of Pop Art style is used as a tool in marketing. With people constantly being exposed to advertisements online, and in the real world, the competition is tough. Brands need to stand out in the visual world and catch the attention of their audience within seconds. This is not only achieved by using well known products and celebrities, but the bright, bold colors that are associated with the movement as well as the use of mixed media. Advertisements need to be eye catching and leave a lasting impression on their audience.

Today, artists and advertisers have moved into the more recent Contemporary Pop movement. This type of Pop Art still focuses on the use of mass media and popular culture, but without the vibrant colors and literal use of objects. The most recent style of art to emerge is the ‘meme’, made popular by social media. Meme’s are usually humorous and focus on mundane issues within everyday people’s lives to big political news stories. Christine Wang, a contemporary pop artist, has established herself as the ‘Meme Girl’. One of her most popular paintings is ‘Americans’. The idea behind it is comparable to the ideas behind Warhol’s work as it humorously highlights the glamorous side of America as well as the ugly.

Conclusion

The Pop Art movement essentially became the thing its artists were trying to depict; a mass produced, commercial image. Warhol’s ‘Campbell’s Soups Cans’ and Peter Blake’s ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ have become overproduced artwork that is well known globally. Artists within the movement had an infatuation with glamour, branding and consumer products, and their artwork accepted narcissism and greediness. For Warhol, art was just as important as self-promotion. “Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art” (1975, Warhol). He understood how to capitalize from brands and their products and as a result built himself as a successful brand.

The movement is still very relevant today as we continue to live in a world of mass consumerism. Further advancements in technology have increased the amount of product advertising we consume daily, and social media has made art more reachable than ever. In a way, social media allows us to mass produce and show our own artwork on a huge scale. Our goals of constantly owning more or achieving fame and fortune are perpetuated by current businesses through their branding and advertisements. Warhol’s statement that “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” has become a reality with social media platforms, YouTube and reality TV.

Pop Art today could be explained through the fact it predicted and announced the interests of modern-day society in an intimidatingly accurate way, intentionally or not. It’s like Pop Art artists started this phenomenon of image abundance, obsessions with material things money can or cannot buy, celebrities in forms of singers, actors, actresses, dancers, socialites, public figure in general we still want it all, we still want it now, and there is never enough of it.

The advertising industry is still greatly influenced by Pop Art. The trend of combining popular culture with a brand hugely impacts an audience’s opinion of a business. If a brand can associate themselves with a likeable, well-known celebrity or a hit song, consumers are more likely to invest in their product.

With the introduction to the Metaverse and other virtual realms, NFT’s have become increasingly popular. These virtual art pieces are often digitally drawn representations of real-life consumer products and can sell for millions. Coca-Cola produced a 3D branded jacket that sold for over £500,000. As we move more towards a world being consumed by online activities there is no doubt Pop Art will continue to influence the way brands advertise their products. In a way, the Metaverse will allow us to merge with the technology we’ve created, and we might move closer to becoming a type of machine that Warhol fantasized about.

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How Did Pop Art Movement Influence Modern Branding and Advertisement? (2023, March 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 13, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/how-did-pop-art-movement-influence-modern-branding-and-advertisement/
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