I really wish Bernbach hadn’t said that
It takes some gall to challenge Bill Bernbach, advertising icon and symbol of the “creative revolution of the 60s.” But then, gall might as well be my middle name, so here goes.
Bernbach famously said:
“There are a lot of great technicians in advertising. And unfortunately, they talk the best game. They know all the rules. They can tell you that showing people in an ad will get you greater readership. They can tell you that a sentence should be this short or that long. They can give you fact after fact after fact. They are the scientists of advertising. But there’s one little rub. Advertising is fundamentally persuasion, and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art.”
I kinda wish he hadn’t said that.
To dichotomize science (“rules”) and art is just plain wrong. You don’t get one without the other, because one follows from the other. If you’re going to compose a sonata, you would be wise to begin by studying sonata form. If you’re going to prepare fugu, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of first leaning to identify and remove the toxic organs. If you’re going to build a beautiful bridge, I sure as hell hope you know a thing or two about civil engineering.
And, sorry, Bill, but persuasion is very much a science. The art is in applying it, not ignoring it.
Self-proclaimed creative types invoke Bernbach to defend irresponsible work. If you value art over and to the exclusion of the science of persuasion, you should stop pretending to be an advertising pro and hit up the National Endowment for the Arts for a grant instead.