Many big name Hollywood directors made their name not on movie sets, but on commercial ones, earning a living selling bread (Ridley Scott), cars (Neill Blomkamp) and, well, everything else in the world (David Fincher). So after we saw Natalie Portman looking absurdly pretty in Sofia Coppola’s Christian Dior advert recently, we thought it was high time to gather together our favourite adverts from our favourite directors, and here is the result…
Director: Sofia Coppola
Brand: Christian Dior
Star: Natalie Portman
Coppola’s previous work in the commercial business was another Dior number, namely the Miss Dior Chérie fragrance advert that starred Maryna Linchuk. No offence to Maryna Linchuk, but she’s got nothing on Natalie Portman. Seriously, if you have even the slightest crush on Natalie Portman (and if have a pulse and eyes, chances are you do, at least a little bit) then prepare to fall head over heads in love with her. Again.
You think we’re exaggerating – and sure, we probably are – but this really is an advert seemingly designed to make you adore Natalie Portman (like she needed the help). But Coppola’s dreamy pacing, glamorous setting, and Virgin Suicides-esque diffused sunlight seems to make Natalie even more radiant than normal. Damn you Benjamin Millepied, with your awesome name and awesome wife. Damn you, damn you, damn you.
See also: “Miss Dior Chérie” starring Maryna Linchuk
Director: David Lynch
Brand: Sony / Playstation
Lynch has done dozens of adverts for dozens of companies, so picking just one to show you here is a little bit difficult. Needless to say, all of them are completely and utterly bonkers, full of startling effects, twists and general oddness: they’re ‘Lynchian’ you could say. But you’ve never seen a perfume really sold to you till you see some models sniffing the air violently to the tune of Blondie’s Heart Of Glass.
Anyway, the one we've gone for to the left is the “Bambi” advert from back when the Sony Playstation 2 was just coming out. We won’t spoil it for you by describing it, but know this: it’s a little like something Jonathan Glazer did previously.
Director:** Wes Anderson
*Brand: American Express Star:* Wes Anderson, Jason Schwartzman
Wes has done three notable pieces of advertising. This one on the left, which stars himself and Jason Schwartzman, is the most stereotypically Andersonian – what with it paying homage to François Truffaut’s Day for Night and parodying his own work. Then there’s the Hollyorkazonasouthameriland AT&T adverts, which are ever-so-slightly genius, and the truly nuts Brad Pitt-starring Japanese mobile phone adverts.
Which is best? Well, how about you decide, then tell us in the comment box below. Once that’s done, we’ll type out a letter telling Wes what’s what, give it to the nearest passing hot air balloonist, and tell him to deliver our message to Wes’s floating castle in the sky, where he lives with Bill Murray and the Wilson brothers.
Director:** David Fincher
*Brand:* Pretty much everything
*Star:* **Pretty much everyone
Before his big break into movie-making proper, David Fincher worked for Propaganda Films, a company that specialised in music videos and commercials. In the music video world, he’s clocked up dozens and dozens of directing credits, working with the likes of Nine Inch Nails, The Rolling Stones, Roy Orbison and Madonna.
In advertising, there’s Coca-Cola, Nike, Levi’s, Heineken, Motorola… the list goes on and on. There’s so much here to enjoy, it’s genuinely impossible to pick just one, so here’s a recently unearthed collection of his Propaganda Films work for you. But at 8 minutes long, bear in mind you’ll definitely be here for a while. Much like Fincher’s cast in every film he’s made. Boom!
Director: Ridley Scott
You were expecting the bike-pushing Hovis ad from 1974, aren’t you? You know, the one that won a sack of awards and was recently voted the greatest advert ever, ever, ever?
Well, we’re not going for that one, because chances are you’ve watched it far too many times already, and besides, it don’t really reflect Sir Ridley’s style. Instead we’ve got for Scott’s other seminal piece of advertising – his “1984” ad – which remains very influential to this day, heralding the Apple Mac revolution, and somehow foreshadowing Apple’s ubiquity now.
Director: Terry Gillaim
*Star:* **Eric Cantona, Thierry Henry, Paul Scholes, Edgar Davids, Ronaldo…
Terry Gilliam has made two adverts of note. Both are, perhaps surprisingly, for Nike, and both, less surprisingly, feature footballer and poet Eric Cantona swinging a cane inside an old cargo liner. These are magnificent, and even if the idea of 2002’s finest footballers doing flair tricks in a cage doesn’t appeal at first, they really are worth your time.
All done to the tune of the No. 1 smash Elvis vs. JXL remix of “A Little Less Conversation” (also heard in Ocean’s Eleven, by the way) it’s The King meets King Eric in the first ad, called “Secret Tournament”. Its follow-up, “The Rematch” is a similar beast, but ends with the tanker filling full of water and crashing into the sea. As you’d expect. They’re so enjoyable even now, it’s a wonder Terry hasn’t done any more since.
Director**: Spike Jonze
*Star*:** David Douglas
Spike Jonze’s commercial work is so highly regarded that in 2005 he was nominated by the Directors’ Guild Of America for his "Outstanding Achievement in Commercials”, notably for his "Lamp" ad for IKEA; "Pardon Our Dust" for GAP, and this work of beauty, "Hello Tomorrow" – a dream sequence supposedly designed to sell Adidas shoes.
Beautifully constructed and wonderfully scored (music by Spike’s ex, Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, by the way) it’s a surprisingly affecting advert that probably didn’t help shift that many pairs of sneakers, but does work as a piece of art. A piece of art that just so happens to be affiliated with and paid for by a multinational sports clothing corporation. You know how these things go.
Director: Michael Mann
You were expecting the multi-million pseudo-trailer that was "Lucky Star", weren’t you? That Mercedes advert starring Benicio Del Toro in a thriller no-one would ever be able to see? Well this one’s better. There, we said it.
Another advert for Nike, it sees an American Football player ploughing through the opposition again and again, unperturbed by the fact that he’s wearing plastic armour and shiny brightly coloured tights, imbued with the power of Nike to take on all comers. It’s slick, it’s quick, and it sells the product. Apart from 0.11 seconds in when you can clearly see the Reebok logo on the guy’s top. Awkward.
Director: Jonathan Glazer
**Star:* Rusty K
The man behind 2000’s Sexy Beast, 2004’s Birth and the upcoming Under The Skin is probably known more for his adverts than his films, but with adverts as good as these, that’s not really that much of a surprise.
Ignoring the like of his "Ice Skating Priests" ad for Stella Artois and the exploding "Paint” piece for Sony BRAVIA, his finest work is – and probably always will be – his Guinness’ surfer commercial. Voted by Channel 4, the general public, and everyone in the world ever as “The Best Advert Of All Time” it’s a masterpiece of Irish stout-selling, and advertising in general.
See also: The Sony Bravia “Paint” ad, Samuel L. Jackson in Barclay’s “Is money evil?”, Stella Artois’s “Ice-Skating Priests”, Nike’s "Guerilla Tennis" with Andre Agassi, Volkswagen Polo’s “Protection”.
Director: Michel Gondry
The Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind director learnt all the visual tricks he’s now known for through his work on music videos (Daft Punk, The White Stripes, The Chemical Brothers, Radiohead, Beck) and commercials (Motorola’s Razr2, Coca-Cola’ Snowboarder, Air France’s “Le Passage”).
The one that’s won the most awards – including the award for winning the most awards ever – is his “Drugstore” advert for Levi’s. But we’re not going for that one here; instead plucking for a piece he did for Smirnoff which is so visually dazzling – time-slice photography and background projection, anyone? – it’s a wonder how Be Kind Rewind ended up so disappointingly bad. Sorry Michel, but it’s true.
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Star:** **Nicole Kidman, Rodrigo Santoro
His recent work for the Australian Tourist Board is pretty special too, but when it comes to picking just one of Baz’s commercial outings, it has to be “Chanel No. 5 The Film” because somehow, God knows, Mr. Luhrmann managed to compress a whole romance into just a few minutes and genuinely effect us emotionally.
It helps that it stars world-renowned super pretty person and Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman, sure, and the casting of absurdly handsome Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro is handy too, but it’s a testament to Baz’s talents as a filmmaker that he can make an advert for a perfume this engaging and this beautiful. Chanel No. 5 could smell like a dead dog in a bin (N.B. it doesn’t) and we’d still buy it because of this advert. True story.
See also: Australian Tourism Board's "Come Walkabout" commercial
Director:** Tony Scott
*Brand: BMW Stars:* Clive Owen, Danny Trejo, James Brown, Gary Oldman
Clive Owen, Danny Trejo, James Brown… and Gary Oldman as the devil. Wearing red lipstick. In a black-and-red striped unitard. Who rides a leopard print wheelchair. And, of course, makes winner-takes-all bets with The Godfather Of Soul.
This is an advert like no other. A nine minute advert like no other, in fact. It really does defy description, explanation, or anything else ending with –ation. It's one hell of a commercial (no pun intended) and if you haven’t watched it already, do. And if you have watched it already, watch it again. Go on. Do it. Do it now.
Director:** Guy Ritchie
*Brand: Nike Stars:* Every Nike-sponsored footballer in 2010
Could this be the best football advert ever? We’re happy to be wrong here, and we know Terry Gilliam and his “Secret Tournament” puts up a good fight, but we’re finding it hard to think of a better one. Aside from that one where Wayne Rooney lives in a caravan and has a mangy beard, of course.
Taking you through the highs and lows and highs of a-flight football, “Take It To The Next Level” brings some many people’s dreams to the screen, with bikinied babes, perfect goals and fast cars there, right before your eyes. But is it the best football ad ever? Let us know in the comment box below. One thing’s for sure: it’s better than Guy Ritchie’s BMW number with Madonna. Yeesh.
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Brand: Citroën C4
Take one car. Take one track by Les Rythmes Digitales (Jacques Your Body – Make Me Sweat). Take one incredible dancer. Add a Neill Blomkamp into the mix and suddenly you’ve got a dancing four-door on your hands, and it looks damn good, and sounds even better. We don’t think Citroën will ever have an advertising campaign as good as this one, to be honest.
But as good as this ad is, taking another look at Blomkamp’s short for the potential Halo 3 movie – as was – reminds you even more clearly just what a talent he is. Roll on Elysium, and quickly…
Director:** John Woo
*Brand:* Nike Stars:** Every Nike-sponsored footballer in 1998
You know what when we were wondering whether Guy Ritchie’s "Take It To The Next Level" Nike advert was the best football commercial ever? Forget what we said – this is it. And it’s directed by John Woo... it just can’t get any better than this. Unless it had a King Eric cameo in it. Oh wait, it does. Perfect.
See also: “Hostage” for BMW with Clive Owen.