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(Credit: Ronald Grant Archive / Alamy)

From David Lynch to Ridley Scott: 10 commercials made by famous directors

It was Andy Warhol who said, “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.” This was an opinion propagated in a rather more applied sense by one of his New York contemporaries Keith Haring, who said, “If commercialism is putting my art on a shirt so that a kid who can’t afford a $30,000 painting can buy one then I’m all for it.” In a strange way, an advert to a director is like a T-shirt to a painter, in the most ambiguous way possible it both literally and figuratively works as a shop front. 

Working within the confines of commercialism’s tight grasp offers an interesting creative challenge for directors in of itself. Some legendary auteurs like Michael Cimino were even products of the advertising world. Ultimately, if you can craft something with such a singular goal, and work within the stringent confines that entails, and still produce something artistic then that’s one hell of a calling card for any creative. Plus, let’s be honest, it no doubt pays very handsomely for 30 seconds of footage. 

Below, we’re taking a look at 10 commercials that were created by famous directors, from David Lynch, Ridley Scott, Wes Anderson and more. 

Ten commercials made by famous directors:

Wes Anderson for Stella Artois

Wes Anderson has a style so particular that his surname can be suffixed with an ‘ism’ and people will know what you mean.

Interestingly enough, he couldn’t tear himself away from his neat sixties’ symmetry and wide-lens shots even for a commercial flogging the easiest sell of them all – beer!

David Lynch for Clearblue Pregnancy Test 

This commercial was made in 1997, by which point David Lynch had well and truly established himself as Hollywood’s answer to a box of frogs. Therefore, the only explanation behind him being hired is that someone with a bit of sway in the Clearblue firm simply wanted to meet him.

Whilst, in fairness, the advert does remain passably conventional, there is a strange undercurrent of darkness, mystery and the lingering potential of harrowing which accompanies this particular pregnancy test. It has even been claimed that this footage is haunted… it could only be Lynch.

Darren Aronofsky for Yves Saint Laurent 

After tackling the world of ballet in scintillating fashion, it kind of made sense that Aronofsky would team-up with Vincent Cassel once again to tackle the literal world of fashion.

The pair reunited for a stylishly shot ‘what is this even selling’ style piece for Yves Saint Laurent in 2010.

Michael Bay for Victoria’s Secret

In this commercial, Michael Bay stylishly succeeds in somehow making a Victoria’s Secret ad sexless.

It would seem like the famed lingerie brand was trying to inexplicably break into the lucrative teenage boy market on this occasion. The good thing for Bay was that he not only picked up a pay packet, but also secured himself a new star with Rosie Huntington-Whitely who would later go on to replace Megan Fox in the Bay-directed Transformers franchise following this slinky flick of motorbikes and chrome-clad planes. 

Sofia Coppola for Christian Dior

Natalie Portman dancing about in a fountain with Grace Jones singing ‘La Vie en Rose’ over the top of it is always going to have some sort of appeal, it’s that shrewd aptitude that always stood the Coppola’s in good stead.

If commercials serve as a little shopwindow for directors, then having this little feature debut during the 85th Academy Awards placed Sofia Coppola on a pretty prominent place on the Highstreet. 

David Fincher for Nike

Early in the year, David Fincher had released his raisin to grape tale of Benjamin Button. Not long afterwards he was following the life story of athletes this time in a far less curious chronological order.

Nike even cashed out on Ennio Morricone’s classic ‘Ecstasy of the Gold’ for this rather rip rousing commercial entitled Fate

Baz Luhrmann for Chanel

It must be a real kick in the teeth for your day-to-day advertising folks that when a big star director swans in they often get the bolstered budget that can bring in their pals from the movie world too.

In 2004, the glitzy Aussie filmmaker teamed-up with his old leading lady Nicole Kidman for their take on Roman Holiday, provided Roman Holiday was a three-minute sales pitch for a perfume that is. Strangely, however, this commercial did eclipse Roman Holiday in terms of budget, costing Dior a whopping $33million dollars with Nicole Kidman pocketing $3m of those.

Sergio Leone for Renault

In 1984, Sergio Leone released the near-four-hour gangster epic Once Upon a Time in America, and presumably the thinking at Renault was ‘let’s see what he’s capable of in 45 seconds.

The tragic back story is that this would ultimately be the last ‘film’ that the director ever made. Fittingly, it is a homage to his favourite things, the western genre, swooping shots, the music of old-time collaborator Ennio Morricone and Diesel engines (?). 

Ridley Scott for Hovis

Like many people on this list Ridley Scott has delved into advertising more than a few times, he’s worked with Prada, tackled George Orwell’s 1984 with Apple and pushed the bottle with Hennessy.

However, his most iconic advertising work, at least in the UK, is a boy delivering his last loaf of bed in this Hovis classic. As the BFI describes it: “Freewheeling down the cobbles of Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, Dorset, our young hero rides into the sunset in what is one of the most iconic moments in TV advertising history.”

Michael Cimino for United Airlines 

As mentioned previously, not every big-name director in advertising has stepped aside from the spotlight to earn a little bit of extra on the side, some filmmakers earned their stripes in the world commercial content.

Cimino was heralded as a star by his advertising bosses for turning in visionary ads on brief and on budget. It would seem that he was a man going places, only when he got there movie producers provided him with the same free-reign as advertising agencies and he simply went wild with it.

He still produced epics, but when he wasn’t pinned down to a minute, they often raced well over budget. 

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