Sometimes even famous directors have to pay the bills, which means even the most non-commercial of directors has dabbled in advertising. For fans of film and the cinematic greats, these periods of downtime offer a little more perspective into the workings of a director in a day job.
The results will surprise you. The names will probably surprise you too.
Picture a David Lynch advert for a pregnancy test in your head. Got it? Now click play on the video above. I’m pretty confident the vision didn’t match the outcome, though there are hallmarks of Lynch here. This was produced in 1997, and Lynch was reportedly very keen to ensure the (understandably nervous) client was happy.
Probably one of the scariest commercials ever made is the public service announcement above that targets litterbugs in New York City. Not only is it grainy, black and white and full of shots of a moody NYC, its implications are bound to make a few rodent-averse people squeamish.
Above you can see the “most Lynchian” of three literary perfume adverts Lynch produced for Calvin Klein, the above using a quote from Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. The other two featured F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence and adhere to the usual clichéd sense of luxury found in most perfume adverts.
Now this is more like it! An advertisement for the limited-availability David Lynch Organic Coffee (yes it was a real product, believe it or not), the film above uses a severed Barbie head and David’s disjointed narrative to create a strange and rambling four minutes of commercial weirdness.
Bonus: Finally here’s a sort of demi-advertisement for any Lynch fans out there, in which he teaches the viewer to cook his favourite quinoa recipe in his usual surrealist style.
The Coen Brothers are another name you wouldn’t normally associate with commercials, so it’s unsurprising the only commercial to their name is for a good cause: convincing the world that coal is not a clean energy source. Below you can see a sneak peak into the creative process for another similar film (and one I can’t find anywhere).
Probably best known for last year’s hit film Her, Spike Jonze is a director with a long list of achievements – many of them music-related, and some commercial in nature. Above you can see his IKEA “Lamp” commercial which can only be described as genius as it first tugs your heartstrings, then slaps you across the face.
You know an advert has some sort of effect when the company who commission it end up pulling it after only a limited run. Jonze’s “pardon our dust” commercial for GAP sees customers and employees alike completely destroying the store, clothing and branding.
The 2005 advert for self-adjusting trainers from Adidas calls upon the notion of a lucid dream to attach a sense of freedom and wonder to the product in the spotlight. Even if you don’t need new shoes, it’s quite an exhilarating bit of a film.
Director, animator, actor and original member of the Monty Python comedy outfit, Terry Gilliam produced two films for Nike in 2001 and 2002 featuring a star-studded cast of footballers. Many of the names have now resigned from top-flight football, but these are still some delightfully dystopian sporting goods commercials.
Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini is known for the unique style shown through productions like La Dolce Vita and 8½, but in the last decade of his life he was involved in advertising. Above you can see an advert for Italian liqueur Campari, which is pretty cheesy.
Far better than that (and this non-subbed film he directed for Barilla pasta) is the rather long advert above produced for the Bank of Rome.
Wes Anderson, known for big screen releases like The Grand Budapest Hotel, has had quite a rich career producing commercials. In addition to the Softbank advert above (a Japanese telecommunications company) starring Brad Pitt, he has produced for numerous clients including Hyundai, below.
Personally I prefer his earlier Hyundai spot, which plays on some of the most recognisable automobiles in history including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and KITT from Knight Rider.
Appearing as part of the “unboring” marketing campaign that Spike Jonze was involved in, Wes Anderson’s also produced an advert for IKEA which you can see below.
Regardless of the product, if the direction is good then the advert is generally regarded as a positive outcome. Stella Artois were probably pretty pleased with the film below, which is incredibly visually appealing and rather cheeky.
Anderson has produced other commercials for AT&T and others, but his best work (and one of the best on this list) is the two and a half minute spot he did for American Express in which he himself stars, below.
Known for his work on films like The Buena Vista Social Club and the documentary Pina, Wim Wenders has also stuck his fingers in a few advertising pies over the years. One such brand that continues to offer famous directors jobs producing adverts is Stella Artois, for whom Wenders to produced the film above.
If you’re wondering how those luscious smooth shots were achieved, or how Wenders works, check out the film above that takes a look behind the scenes. In a completely different look at beer, check out Wenders commercial for Carling below.
And in a rather epic and muted twist, he has also produced pasta commercials for the likes of Barilla which you can see below.
Fancy a beer? Maybe some new shoes? That’s probably the worst thing about the films above, their sole purpose is to sell. At least for the directors, they’re more than a means of taking over the airwaves. For the rest of us they offer a break from the mindless and thoughtless assaults on our wallets.
Which adverts stick in your mind for their cultural or artistic direction?