When a Video Producer Becomes a Writer
It was a Wednesday afternoon— not unlike many other Wednesday afternoons— when I was dutifully counting the frames of a healthcare commercial on my hand-built PC/Mac behemoth in the quiet solitude of my mom’s basement. One frame too few and we miss the emotion, one frame too many and the doc looks like they are about to perform a septal myectomy on a house plant. That’s when the phone rang.
Lexi Marco, 898 Marketing’s Social Media Coordinator was on the line. She said, “Mario, I need you to write an 898 blog post— and it’s due next week!”
I responded, “Lexi, I literally make videos for a living, I’m not so sure of my writing capabilities.” To which she responded, with the calculated speed of a chess Grandmaster might I add, “Everyone else already has, you’re up.”
After gathering my bearings, my first move was to get to writing…just kidding. It was to go play pickleball with my best friend, and 898’s Digital Integration Specialist, Brady Sklenar. During our match, I explained to him that I was not sure what to write about. Brady thought carefully on this, with the same balanced mindfulness that he approaches all decisions. After a moment, he looked up at me, stroked his fu manchu and said, “Silent and listen are spelled with the same letters.”
This got me thinking: when am I silent, but also listening? The movie theater! I should write about my favorite commercials that were directed by movie directors.
My Top 5 Favorite Commercials Directed by Movie Directors
“Come Together” H&M, Directed by Wes Anderson
Wes Anderson, the inventor of symmetry and director of artsy hipster favorites such as Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel directs this fashionably warm holiday spot about a passenger train’s delay getting its commuters home for Christmas.
It is underscored by my two favorite Christmas songs and I dare you to not feel something as it arrives at its conclusion.
“Easy One Minute” Clear Blue Pregnancy Tests, Directed by David Lynch
David Lynch famously brought arthouse cinema to the mainstream, most notably through his TV show, Twin Peaks. Lynch’s lasting influnece can be seen all over popular culture. From The Sopranos, to Mad Men, to Stranger Things, to even The Simpsons. The man also has an Oscar and the demeanor of the world’s nicest, strangest Grandpa.
The spot is incredibly straightforward. I just find it crazy that David Lynch directed a 0:16 second pregnancy test commercial that played on daytime TV between The Price is Right and Maury.
“Lamp” IKEA, Directed by Spike Jonze
Spike Jonze, director of Being John Malkovich, Her, and not to mention the Fatboy Slim music video where Chrispther Walken flies around the interior of a professional building on wires perfectly combines Pixar-esque heart and humor, without the animation. Mind you, with some heavier hitting cynicism in this 2002 commercial.
He also revisited the spot, parodying it in 2018.
“Golf” Gap, Directed by David Fincher
David Fincher (Fight Club, The Social Network, Mindhunter) is a powerhouse director who got his start making commercials for Nike and music videos for Madonna. His movies are psychologically heavy, and are often about serial killers. This spot for Gap is very different – it is light, cheery, even fun – but there’s also a sense of danger in its DNA, which I find intriguing.
“The Night Belongs to Michelob” Michelob, Directed by Ridley Scott & Joe Pytka
This campaign is arguably the first time commercials adopted the ‘this is the mood our product creates’ approach. Long before Levi and Coke cheapened this slant through overuse, the director of the original Blade Runner and Alien teamed up with Genesis (Phil Collins, anyone?) to sculpt the atmosphere that ad agencies would riff on for decades to come, as well as received vocal acclaim from Stanley Kubrick.