Top 10 Coolest Commercials By Movie Directors

13th August 2008

Advertising is now as big a part of movies as actors or special effects - it's a cold, hard fact of life that wherever there are eyes trained on a screen, there'll be some pen-chewing dickwad executive willing to cram a commercial on it. Product placement is all well and good, but what's the next logical step? Instead of forcing directors to sell your products in their movies, why not pay them shitloads of money to direct your commercials? The results are odd little mini-movies; an experience akin to hanging out with your favourite directors while they try and pick your pocket. We've picked the best of the bunch as an example of directors that have at least tried to turn advertising into art. Bend over and enjoy some corporate shaft: it's the future.

10. SONY, 'THE THIRD PLACE' (2001)
What's the ad? Commissioned by Sony to create a series of short promos for their upcoming super-console PlayStation 2, Lynch delved deep into his box of oddities for this baffling minute of mind-wrongs. The PS2 would truly bring gaming to the masses; with the much-vaunted 'Emotion Engine' and DVD playback, it promised to be a box of tricks unlike any other. So what did Lynch go for? Typically twisted fare, with a man trapped in a shadowy labyrinth who stumbles on a disembodied arm, a mummy and a talking duck. "Mummy, mummy - buy me a PS2!" said kids across the world.

Director's trademarks? Bonkers imagery, queasy music and a nonsensical plot? It's fair to say that this is typical Lynchian fare.
Did it work? The PS2 went on to become the biggest selling console of all time, shifting over 140 million units. We're not sure Lynch deserves all the credit, mind.

9. GUINNESS, 'SURFER' (1998)
What's the ad? Guinness are a company who know how to get people drunk - they're behind some of the most memorable booze ads in history. As part of their 'Good Things Come To Those Who Wait' campaign, this memorable advert sees a group of surfers hanging back and waiting for the perfect wave - patience which is essential to enjoy a good pint of the black stuff, Guinness claim. It's a bit of a cheat, this one, as director Jonathan Glazer has only really made one decent film. However, because it was the awesome Sexy Beast, and because this ad rocks, it makes it on the list by merit.

Director's trademarks? Sharp visuals matched with pounding music. Grey, miserable, British.
Did it work? The featured tune, Leftfield's 'Phat Planet', saw the Brixton-based electro-punk outfit score a number one album. Irishmen continued to get drunk. Everybody wins.

8. AMEX, 'MY LIFE, MY CARD'(2006)
What's the ad? In 2004, American Express launched their new campaign: 'My Life, My Card'. The gist? Big-name stars wax lyrical on their favourite piece of plastic. Most of them were obnoxious fluff - celebs and sports stars pouting and exclaiming their love of American Express to support their lavish lifestyles. But famed indie whizkid Wes Anderson at least had a little fun with his TV spot. Painting himself as a put-upon director, Anderson calls the shots on a frantic looking film set, complete with crane shots and explosions.

Director's trademarks? Whimsy. Quirkiness. Jason Schwartzman. Throw in a Wilson brother and an obscure indie track and you've got your next Wes Anderson movie.
Did it work? Maybe. Anderson got labelled a sellout by his hardcore fans, but at least the ad retains his sense of humour.

What's the ad? Fight Club director David Fincher started in ads and never really left them behind. His past projects include commercials for Levis, Nike and - most famously - the American Cancer Society: his short ad of a foetus smoking a cigarette managed to somehow be cool and gross at the same time. With Adidas, the brief was much simpler: just make our shoes look good. Fincher duly delivered with a playful ad that made basketball look fun, even to fatties like me and you.

Director's trademarks? Yeah - it turns out the mechanical legs are actually both the same person. Or something.
Did it work? The ad won a 2003 CLIO gold award for visual effects. Last time we checked, Adidas weren't too strapped for cash either.

6. APPLE, '1984' (1984)
What's the ad? Apple roped in director Ridley Scott and requested his expertise to help launch their new product: the Apple Macintosh. Heavily influenced by the work of George Orwell (obviously), Scott positioned the Mac as a computer that would shatter the image of the home computer - quite literally when a female athlete lobs a hammer through the face of Big Brother (read: Bill Gates). The ad was shown only once, during the third quarter of the Super Bowl. That was enough.

Director's trademarks? Scott was coming fresh from his success with Blade Runner; the dystopian futures of that sci-fi classic and this ad are not too dissimilar.
Did it work? In a word, yes. The ad was a huge hit and helped Apple eat up a huge market share. Apple went on to make more money than God, while the ad was voted Commercial Of The Decade. Given Apple's current stock value, it's probably the most successful ad ever made.

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