Ben’s hierarchy of artistic quality

Over the years of writing this blog I’ve read many comments that suggest one kind of advertising is better or worse than other; that producing mediocre or even shit ads is somehow an awful way to spend your life; that some art forms offer true creativity and are therefore superior to others.

Well, maybe that’s the case, but maybe it’s just bullshit. Is The Wire better than EastEnders? You could certainly find millions who would argue each side of that. Is Dylan better than One Direction? Ditto. And when it comes to art, as in art, does Picasso beat Renoir, Chagall or Rubens? If so, why?

Of course, there is no ultimate measure of such things, only subjective opinions that swirl around looking bigger or smaller, more or less right depending on who is talking and who is listening.

But fuck all that. Let’s lay the order out properly so you know what a valuable or pathetic person you really are:

Art: proper old art like that renaissance stuff comes first, and paintings ahead of sculptures. Then modern stuff, with the more famous being superior to people you’ve never heard of. The more other people say it’s great, the better it is, and that applies to almost all art.

Literature: The old stuff gets the best press. Shakespeare and Dickens (I know Shakespeare’s were plays but it’s writing, innit?) seem to be the giants of the form, then all those nineteenth century Jane Austen/Thomas Hardy/Dostoyevsky/Flaubert types. 20th century guys like Joyce/Fitzgerald/Faulkner/Nabokov/Steinbeck etc. Then modern ones like Amis, Coetzee and Rushdie. Middlebrow people like Nick Hornby come next, followed by commercial fiction, romance and Jordan novels.

Film: modern masters such as Kubrick, Scorsese, Coppola etc. win, but only in their 70s heyday. Then the old greats: Hawks, Welles, Wilder, Ford etc. Then the best of the new, such as the Coens and Paul Thomas Anderson. Then drop down a level in each of those categories and keep going until you reach Michael Bay. Indies always beat blockbusters.

Music: up there with film, but in a different way. Boring people like classical music; cool people like rock. Dylan, Hendrix, The Beatles, all that stuff… You can’t really compare it to Mozart or Beethoven, so don’t even try. Pick your faves and you can make a case for most of them (except Steps and the Vengaboys).

Photography: Classic greats such as Cartier-Bresson, Lartigue, Man Ray, Cappa, Strand etc, then anyone who has worked for Magnum, then the reportage fellas like Salgado and McCullin, then modern people like Gursky, who are further down the list because they use post, the cheating bastards.

TV: this is now close to passing photography. Its only problem is it has yet to make its way into art galleries where it can bask in the reflective glow of the surroundings. Of course stuff like Mad Men, The Wire, Breaking Bad etc. are the current best and best of all time (we’re in a golden age, people; enjoy the fuck out of it). Then there’s old stuff that people say is good, like Our Friends In The North and House of Cards, then good old comedy like Blackadder and Fawlty Towers and finally, everything else.

Advertising: this is the order: cinema, TV, posters, press, experiential wank, radio, digital, below the line. And then: big brands like Apple, VW, Nike etc., then small brands you’ve never heard of, then big brands that are boring and shit, like Asda. So a good ad for Nike in press beats a great ad for Cif in cinema. It’s all about tell-your-mates-ability. Good work is always cooler, but the bigger the brand, the better. Advertising people might care more if you knock a boring brand out of the park, but your mates probably won’t understand why that’s such a big deal. In the world of advertising people good work for shitty brands is given three extra marks out of ten for difficulty, but like I said: no one else gives a toss

Of course, none of the above is true. I just made it up to give you something to fume/chortle about on a Thursday morning.

(Except secretly you know it is all 100% true and it either bruises your soul or makes you swell with pride to admit it.)