Top 10 Coolest Commercials By Movie Directors

13th August 2008

What's the ad? Though most Americans probably wouldn't know a soccer ball if it hit them in the nuts, us Europeans are mightily fond of football. Nike are infamous for forking out the big bucks and roping in their big-name stars to appear in lavish World Cup TV advertisements - quite why they hired famed cinematic nutjob Terry Gilliam to shoot it is another matter. The ad in question is a cracker - a mini tourney aboard a disused tanker - and is anchored by possibly the Greatest Footballer Who Ever Lived: temperamental Gallic genius Eric Cantona.

Director's trademarks? Nope. Try as we might, we can't remember any football tournaments in Brazil or Time Bandits. We haven't seen Tideland yet, though.
Did it work? The ad's Brazilian contingent (Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Denilson and Roberto Carlos) went on to win the 2002 World Cup. A remix of the accompanying song - Elvis Presley's 'A Little Less Conversation' - went to #1 in over 20 countries. Nike kept on pumping out those over-priced trainers and us suckers continued buying them.

What's the ad? A real curio, this. Directed by Michael Mann, 'Lucky Star' is 150 seconds of fakery. Not unusual for a commercial, but this one purports to be something entirely different. Shot as a trailer, it stars Benicio Del Toro as a fellow for whom luck comes naturally. He quickly attracts the interest of the US government, which gives him ample opportunity to outrun them in his sexy new Mercedes SL500. Sounds like a good film? Shame, because it doesn't exist. You got Merc-ed!

Director's trademarks? Oh yeah. Beautiful, lingering shots of LA in HD. Car chases. Cocky asshole anti-heroes. You name it, it's here.
Did it work? Not especially. Critics claim it was little more than a response to a similar campaign by BMW (see #2) and felt cheated by the fact that it hoodwinked audiences waiting for the full-length feature. Interestingly, Mann retained the rights to make a proper Lucky Star feature - six years on and we're still waiting.

What's the ad? Bonkers Frenchman Michel Gondry is prone to flights of fancy - if he hadn't moved into the movie biz, it's very probable he'd still be crafting short, sharp and sweet bursts of advertainment like the commercial below. The brief: make Smirnoff Vodka appear exciting and dynamic - pretty difficult when most of its drinkers are generally foul-smelling lushes. But Gondry made it beautiful, stripping an action movie down to basics then turning it on its head over and over.

Director's trademarks? Cute, low-budget charm. A skewed perspective on the simple things. Imagination in abundance. This has Gondry's fingerprints all over it.
Did it work? Smirnoff loved the ad and reported a surge in sales. A year later, the Wachowski brothers ripped off Gondry's 'bullet-time' effect. A decade later, Gondry at least still has his credibility intact.

2. BMW, 'BEAT THE DEVIL' (2002)
What's the ad? Back in 2001, a genius pen-chewing BMW marketing exec stumbled on a belter of an idea - fling bundles of money at high-class filmmakers in exchange for short films based on their automobiles. Directors of the series 'The Hire' ranged from the classy (Ang Lee, Wong Kar-Wai) to the not-so classy (Guy Ritchie) but by far the most entertaining episode was Tony Scott's ten-minute tease, which saw Clive Owen's 'Driver' race Gary Oldman's devil for the prize of James Brown's eternal soul. Hell, just watch it, it's awesome.

Director's trademarks? Flashy camera work, ADD directorial techniques, bleached palettes, avid farts and car chases. Instantly recognisable as the work of Ridley's little brother.
Did it work? When the videos were released online, they were viewed 11 million times in four months. BMW's sales went up by 12% and when your products are as expensive as theirs, that's a fat lot of profit.

1. GAP, 'PARDON OUR DUST' (2005)
What's the ad? Jonze already had an reputation for being something of a Hollywood maverick when Gap approached him to create a short ad for their new look. There's no excuse, then, for them turning their noses up when Jonze produced the following self-deprecating ad, showing customers and employees gleefully tearing a Gap store apart brick by brick. Gap ran the commercial in a handful of cities before yanking it off the air completely after just a month. Then the internet got hold of it and declared it a work of genius. Hey, Gap? Your clothes suck and so does your business acumen.

Director's trademarks? Anarchy with a touch of hepcat cool, with a smidgen of Jackass-style buffoonery in the mix as well.
Did it work? It could have, given the chance - Gap's sales were in the shitter when they made the call. Jonze did benefit from the ad, however - in 2006 he was nominated by the Director's Guild of America for Outstanding Achievement in Commercials. Good for him!


CHANEL, 'NO. 5: THE FILM' (2004)
What's the ad? Nothing less than the most expensive commercial ever commissioned. This poncy, three minute abomination from Moulin Rouge director Luhrmann sees him again thrusting his camera in Nicole Kidman's direction, the Aussie actress playing a 'playful' actress sick of the spotlight. Opposite her is Rodrigo Santora aka Take A Shit guy from Lost as a simpering fop who doesn't have a TV. Not just awful, £18m worth of awful. Like the fragrance, it stinks.

Director's trademarks? Flouncing. Australians. Bad acting. Things that shimmer and glimmer and sparkle.
Did it work? Who cares? £18 million could have been spent on countless worthier causes. Instead, some rich bitches get to smell a bit nicer and Nicole Kidman is gifted £2m to make her ego even bigger. Nice going, Luhrmann. Jerk. Ali Digg this article!

If you liked this, check out our Top Ten Coolest Music Videos By Movie Directors feature, or tool up for the Top 50 Movie Gunfights. Pow!

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