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Rich Silverstein, David Kennedy, George Lois, Doug Pray, and Dan Wieden

Back in 1977, convicted serial killer Gary Gilmore was executed by a firing squad. His famous last works were, “Let’s do it!”

That quote served as a major inspiration for Dan Weiden of the advertising agency Weiden + Kenndey. His $20 million “Just Do It” campaign for Nike was launched in 1988 and is now one of the most well-recognized and successful slogans in corporate history.

That strange trivial tidbit is one of the revelations in “Art & Copy”, a mildly entertaining documentary about the advertising industry.

Rather than opting to do an exposé that examines some of the intriguing ethical and sociological implications of this ubiquitous and incredibly influential industry, director Doug Pray chooses to do a nearly reverential overview, a “greatest hits” list of a few of the most famous ad campaigns of the last several decades.

Pray concentrates on some of the top creative players, and the list of interviewees is certainly impressive.

Among the talking heads is Weiden, who sheepishly admits to the odd origins of Nike’s famous slogan. Pray gets intimate with a number of other ad executives who, for the most part, simply toot their own horn or defend the dignity and ethics of their profession.

Perhaps the most interesting character is George Lois, a hardboiled salesman who, as he readily admits on camera, can sell anything,

Lois is the mind behind the infamous Lyndon Johnson TV ads (a little girl plucking petals from a daisy followed by a nuclear explosion) that helped the President defeat hawkish Republican Barry Goldwater.

Lois also talks openly about the modus operandi he employed to make Tommy Hilfiger an overnight fashion sensation. Hilfiger, for his part, expresses both embarrassment and gratitude for Lois’ brazen techniques.

On the other end of the political spectrum is Hal Riney, creator of Ronald Regan’s sentimental and homey “Morning in America” ads that reportedly brought the President to tears. Pray contrasts these bits of Americana with Riney’s recollections of his own unhappy childhood, thus implying that Riney’s vision is mostly wishful thinking.

Among the other luminaries who share the spotlight are David Kennedy, Lee Clow, Jim Durfee, Phyllis K. Robinson, Mary Wells and Charlie Moss.

Fortunately, Pray maintains a fairly crisp pace and inserts enough assorted footage to maintain some visual interest.

But aside from the occasional entertaining anecdote, “Art & Copy” simply skims the surface and doesn’t give this fascinating subject the gravity it deserves. But, it still plays like a good ad. (No MPAA rating) Rating: ***

* Avoid at all costs
** Only if you're bored
*** Good movie
**** Well worth your time
***** Be sure to see it

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