A Three-Step Lesson On What Adland Can Learn From The Great Masters

A Three-Step Lesson On What Adland Can Learn From The Great Masters

The advertising industry needs to adopt new behaviours in order to stay relevant in the new economy and looking to past masters from the art world could be the secret M&C Saatchi’s creative director has told the audience of a Cannes Lions forum.

Nancy Hromin
Posted by Nancy Hromin

Sam Ball, creative director M&C Saatchi London, drew on Filippo Marinetti (pictured above), Gerhard Richter and Henri Matisse as guiding lights for what it means to be creative in the 21st Century.

Ball said learning from the great artists can transform advertising with their ideas, techniques and energy commencing with a snippet from Marinetti’s powerful futurist manifesto from 1909: “Let’s break out of the horrible shell of wisdom and throw ourselves like pride-ripened fruit into the wide, contorted mouth of the wind! Let’s give ourselves utterly to the unknown; not in desperation but only to replenish the deep wells of the absurd.”

Marinetti, Italian poet, philosopher and artist believed one must give oneself entirely to the unknown in order to achieve greatness, said Ball.

“Lesson 1: Ask Utterly Absurd Questions. Ad agencies need to think this way and ask the absurd, keeping only one foot in reality camp, not both,” Ball said.

Ball used Land Rover’s world’s first Transparent Bonnet Concept as an example of asking the absurd – a ‘see-through’ augmented reality view of the terrain ahead, making the front of the car ‘virtually’ invisible from inside the cabin.

The next artist Ball contemplated was Gerhard Richter, a German visual artist, known for his unusual ability to use a diverse range of styles – art that is almost photographic in its detail to abstract (see image below). His paintings evolved in stages based on his response to the picture’s progress. “The end piece is unknown , even though the outcome is. His art was iterative,” said Ball.


“Lesson 2. Employ methods that allow iteration and evolution for the most creative outcome possible. “Ad agencies still operate in a very linear process. If a change is required midway, the account manager needs to check with the client, the client needs to get sign off up the hierarchy, and time passes and the effort is often considered too onerous to bother. Ad agencies need to be bold and employ method of communication that will enable the free flow and iteration of ideas at any stage of the cycle,” he said.

“Lesson 3: The advertising industry needs more old people,” said Ball.
The final artist in the presentation was Henri Matisse. His most profound work was when the artist was in his 70s and 80s and unable to paint. Instead he used scissors and paper to cut out shapes (see image below). The paper scraps were retrieved, pieced together and meticulously pinned in place according to the artist’s instructions. He did his best work in old age.


There is no absence of wisdom and age in other professions such as architects, the law, medicine, yet an older creative in advertising is seen as a contradiction. Ball ended with: “We need to burn brightly for longer and believe our best work is ahead of us.”