Degas and Healthcare Advertising

First in a series exploring the connection between high art and health advertising by Ellen Gorczyca, Executive Creative Director, Digitas Health NY

What does Degas have to do with my job as Executive Creative Director?  

At first glance it t would be easy to answer “not much” and move on. And, that would’ve been my response until a recent visit to the Degas exhibit A Strange New Beauty at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City. I’ve never been a huge Degas fan. I’m sure you’re familiar with Degas—the artist best known for ballerinas in tutus. Precious images for sure, but almost too much so for me.

A Strange New Beauty showed me a different side of Degas. The exhibit features hundreds of his monotype prints depicting ballerinas, actresses, and theatre-goers. Monotypes are created by drawing on a metal plate with ink and then running that plate through a press multiple times. The first print is crisp, with subsequent prints becoming less well-defined and often darker, eerier versions of the first. They are ghostly, smudgy, ethereal. We see faces without eyes; legs lacking feet; haunting black on white. These images are evocative, experimental, bold and different. And, in direct contrast to the Degas I thought I knew: the artist who painted traditionally beautiful imagery.

So, what do these Degas works have to do with my job? They remind me to experiment. To be bold. To be creative in new ways. To push the boundaries of convention. To show what is possible. 

Degas pushed the boundaries past what was expected and created something truly moving in a new way. People have their opinions about what health advertising should be and how it should look. The industry, despite so many technological advances is still creatively “stuck.” And, that’s an opportunity for me. My responsibility as Executive Creative Director is to advance the definition of our creative product…to be bold, to push the boundaries on behalf of our client’s brands, to make them flourish. Expected work is fleeting, but unexpected work has staying power. These haunting Degas images certainly do, and that is our charge everyday in health. To create work memorable and evocative enough to stay with people and change how they see their health and their world.

To learn more about A Strange New Beauty visit