Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Art in adland: Len Lye

Len Lye was involved with quite a few ads in his time and in 1957 one of them almost won the New York Art Directors Award for best commercial. The one-minute spot was made for Chrysler and features very early (if not the first) examples of fast-paced intentional jump cuts. Thanks to his work with Lye on Rhythm McCann-Erickson ad agency producer James Manilla is known in the industry as the inventor of “squeeze advertising” the one frame shots that paved the way for subliminal advertising. The first ad acknowledged to use subliminal imagery (the words “Eat Popcorn”) was made later in the same year and is attributed to market researcher James Vicary.

The Lye ad Rhythm shows the making of a 1955 Plymouth using an existing Chrysler film Wishes on wheels. You can see a clip from it here including some of the images Lye used.

And the reason Lye didn’t get his Art Directors Award? Chrysler had found the film too abstract and felt that the ‘winking man’ image devalued their product so did not approve its screening. It was only discovered at the last minute (after Lye had been given the nod) that the ad had not in fact played and it was pulled from competition.

Sources: Roger Horrocks' biography of Len Lye, Motor Thrills magazine, McCann Erickson and the forwardlook discussion forums