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Exploring Wes Anderson’s wonderful cinematic commercials

“I don’t think any of us are normal people.”― Wes Anderson

American filmmaker Wes Anderson is easily one of the most unique artistic voices in contemporary cinema. Now famous for his beautiful films such as Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel and more, his work stands out in cinematic tradition because of their eccentric visual and narrative styles. Some critics even cite him as the “modern-day example of an auteur”.

The critically acclaimed director is not just responsible for making cinematic masterpieces. Over the course of his career, Anderson has also directed some of the best commercials of the 21st century for top companies like American Express, Prada, Hyundai and AT&T. The clips also feature a few of his biggest collaborators such as actors Jason Schwartzman and Adrian Brody, cinematographer Robert Yoeman and co-writer Roman Coppola.

Here are some of the brilliant commercials that Wes Anderson directed.

Wes Anderson’s 10 best commercials:

IKEA (2002)

IKEA’s ‘Unböring’ marketing campaign in 2002 was kicked off by Anderson’s commercial that showed a family arguing in their living room.

Anderson cleverly associates the familiar space of the house with the concept of domestic conflict in order to re-create the mechanisms of a family. The cinéma verité style of filming is quickly subverted as the camera pulls back to reveal that everything was happening on the IKEA Sales Floor all along.

American Express (2006)

The 2006 advertisement for American Express titled ‘My Life, My Card’ is arguably his most famous commercial till date.

The clip shows Anderson “filming” an action movie, featuring Jason Schwartzman and his long-time cinematographer Robert Yoeman, while also being interviewed by an American Express employee, in a witty meta-fictional tone.

This is also supposed to be a tribute to film 1973 Day for Night by François Truffaut.

AT&T Trilogy (2007)

After the fascinating ‘My Life, My Card’ commercial, Wes Anderson made three 30-second spots that depict an actor, a salesman and a reporter speaking directly to the camera as the background changes rapidly.

The commercials are “designed to highlight how AT&T helps connect people to their worlds wherever they live and work.”

They all take place in one moving shot, true to Anderson’s distinctive narrative style.

SoftBank (2008)

Anderson filmed a one-take advertisement for telecommunications and internet company SoftBank in typically Anderson style.

Comic and full of vibrant colours, it features the famous American actor Brad Pitt who indulges in actions that seem to have no apparent causal relation.

This commercial is inspired by French filmmaker Jacques Tati’s 1953 film Mr. Hulot’s Holiday.

Stella Artois (2010)

An advertisement for the Belgium beer company Stella Artois, Wes Anderson and co-writer Roman Coppola created this 2010 miniature visual delight, full of technological eccentricities and a funny undertone of chaotic subversion.

Stylishly made, this commercial is, perhaps, an answer to the question, “What would a Wes Anderson sci-fi film look like?

A bit like this:

Sony (2012)

In 2012, Wes Anderson asked real children to explain how a cell-phone works.

He wasn’t really looking for scientific answers but rather an imaginative exploration of the mysterious world of science. Inspired by the winning entry from an eight-year-old kid called Jake, Anderson created a beautiful mini-animated commercial for the Sony Xperia phone.

The animation works really well with Jake’s innocent and wonderful fantasy being narrated in the background.

Hyundai I (2012)

Anderson takes inspiration from the famous Kevin Hughes’ 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Instead of focusing on the magical flying abilities of the car in the film, Wes Anderson chooses to humanize the car by elaborating on the voice interface that was a feature of the Hyundai Azera.

Simple and thoughtful, this is the first of two Hyundai commercials that he did that year.

Hyundai II (2012)

For the second one, Anderson transitions, in one smooth motion, between the chaotic domestic life of a family and the mother relaxing in her Hyundai car.

Anderson masterfully manages to show that the car is a more comfortable home for her than her actual home. His characteristic preference for set design is also visible in this commercial.

Prada (2013)

Shot by cinematographer Darius Khondji, this beautiful short film titled Castello Cavalcanti was directed by Wes Anderson as a commercial for Prada in 2013.

Anderson utilizes the strength of his world-building capabilities and creates a rich microcosm of an Italian town.

Set in 1955, it features a Formula One driver who crashes his car in the middle of a race and makes up his mind to leave town.

H&M (2016)

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) and Darjeeling Limited (2007) star Adrien Brody works with Wes Anderson once again in this Christmas-themed 2016 commercial for H&M.

It features Brody as a train conductor who tries to cheer up the gloomy passengers because of the eleven and a half-hour delay in the train schedule.

The blocking and lateral camera movements, in this commercial, are undeniably identifiable marks of Wes Anderson’s oeuvre.