A credit or discredit to their careers? Our Editor-in-Chief, Michael Weinzettl, looks at when film directors like Federico Fellini and Lars von Trier direct commercials.
I just read an interesting column in the March 2012 issue of UK-based magazine, Creative Review, which apart from the odd Communication Arts annual is the only English language trade publication I can wholeheartedly recommend to ad creatives (despite the fact that in the past ten years they have shifted their focus away from advertising as such and write more about other graphic design related disciplines).
It was written by one Gordon Comstock, who according to his Twitter
bio is a copywriter, writer, fighter, film-blogger, advertising columnist and freelancer. We also learn that it's not his real name but a nom de plume
. It's actually the name of the protagonist of a lesser-known George Orwell novel, "Keep the Aspidistra Flying" (1936), which according to the Observer
, deals with the romantic ambition of the hero, an ex-advertising copywriter, who vows to "make it his especial purpose not to 'succeed'" and "rails against how 'The Money God' dominates all aspects of life."
The 'Gordon Comstock' column deals with the uneasy relationship advertising has with the movies and the way ad people tend to envy the movie people, with a lot of ad guys suffering from "Ridley Scott Syndrome: haunted by the dream that one day they'll tell the ECD to piss off and go and make their name in Hollywood."
What interests me more is the way movie people, i.e. famous directors see advertising. Now I'm not talking about the ones that started out in advertising - those directors that were part of Hollywood's 'British invasion': the Scott brothers, Ridley and Tony, Alan Parker, Adrian Lyne, or Mike Figgis (just to name those that were the subject of interviews in Archive over the past 20 years and who in the late 70s and early to mid 80s more or less - and for better or worse I might add - changed the way most Hollywood films look to this very day.)
The ones I've been thinking of are famous feature film directors whose names became brands themselves. People like Robert Altman, Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Federico Fellini or Lars von Trier. Even Jean-Luc Godard, the old Marxist. What did they get out of it?
'Gordon Comstock' in his column, claims that "advertising is something film directors do when they're not working - a hobby." An extremely lucrative one I suppose, but one that bears the risk of endangering their reputation by having the agency/client insist that they resort to some trademark technique associated with their feature films.
This, in the end, could come off as little more than a 'shtick' or a hollow stylistic flourish. Examples of this include the commercials for Banca di Roma directed by Fellini in the early 90s. They're 'Fellini-esque' alright, but in the shallowest possible way.
Or the cigarette commercial Robert Altman directed for Swiss brand Parisienne in 2002, in which he employs one of his trademarks, the long tracking shot, used to such spectacular effect at the start of his 'The Player' from a decade before. But see for yourself if the ads by famous directors do them credit or are a discredit to their lofty reputation.
Commercials by all of the feature film directors mentioned above (and more) can be found in our online archive or via our app for smartphone/tablet.
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