Television Commercials Directed by Movie Directors

Ad agencies are turning to Hollywood more and more. Every year around the Super Bowl, audiences discover that a handful of their favorite ads during the game were actually directed by notable movie directors. Throughout the past, directors have made TV commercials for a variety of reasons. For many, it was an opportunity to hone their craft and gain exposure with Hollywood. For others, it was a chance to make important public service announcements. Here are some of my favorite commercials directed by movie directors. 

Note: In most, but not all, of these cases, they’re examples of ads created by these directors before they made names for themselves.

David Fincher, Nike
I remember seeing this ad when it first came out and thinking it was great. It was my introduction to both the song, and any solo work from John Lennon other than “Imagine”. Almost 20 years later, I still think it’s a great ad. Little did I know at the time that the guy who directed it would proceed to direct a bunch of great movies.

Guillermo del Toro, Alka Seltzer
Not only did del Toro direct this ad. He also starred in it… as a werewolf with an upset stomach. Before I made this list, if you had told me that a popular director today had made an Alka Seltzer ad featuring a werewolf with an upset stomach, del Toro would’ve been my guess.

Michael Bay, Got Milk?
No matter what you want to say about Michael Bay, this ad is great. It’s known simply as “Aaron Burr”. I believe it was even the first in what became a massive “Got Milk?” ad campaign.

Edgar Wright, Pizza Hut
Right around the time he directed Spaced, but before he directed Shaun of the Dead, Edgar Wright made a Pizza Hut ad. It comes with a special bonus- Nick Frost is in it.

Ingmar Bergman, Bris Soap
I don’t speak Swedish so I have no idea what they’re saying. But I assume that the bacteria dressed in black is fighting with the white soap particle for the soul of the girl in the shower. Also, everything they’re saying has those funny circles over the letter a, like this:


David Lynch, Anti-littering Public Service Announcement
Leave it to Lynch to turn a PSA into a horrifying one minute mini-movie where rats overrun the city of New York. I’m never littering again (not that I did before).

David Fincher, Coca-Cola
It’s time to fess up. Before Fincher was a movie director, he directed advertisements, and lots of them. I’ve chosen some of my favorites but you can find many more if you’re so inclined. This one, clearly, is an echo of Blade Runner.

Ridley Scott, Apple Macintosh
Speaking of Blade Runner and stuff created by Ridley Scott, here’s an ad created by Ridley Scott. His riff on George Orwell’s “1984” is still widely-regarded as one of the best ads ever made. Also, it gave birth to a really funny Futurama parody.

Darren Aronofsky, Meth Public Service Announcement
Aronofsky made four of these and they might as well be extras on the Requiem for a Dream DVD. They’re as shocking and disturbing as anything else you’ll find in a commercial. I chose the least disturbing of the four, although I suppose that’s a matter of opinion.

Rob Zombie, Woolite
Whoever came up with this idea deserves a raise. Using Rob Zombie to direct a fabric softener ad that twists on horror conventions is excellent.


Filed under Humor, Movies

16 responses to “Television Commercials Directed by Movie Directors

  1. Great choices, but holy crap you forgot the best choice of them all: Roy Andersson’s 80s commercials. Ingmar Bergman (who was not a fan of Andersson) called them “the best commercials in the world,” and I can’t disagree. They’ll make more sense if you’ve seen Andersson’s films such as Songs from the Second Floor or You, The Living, but still, they’re hilarious. There’s heaps of them too. Here’s a batch on YouTube:

  2. Those are excellent commercials. Had to share the Got Milk? one with a friend of mine.

    • What’s wild about a few of these is that I remember seeing them when they originally aired. To find out 20 years later that they were made by modern directors is a trip.

  3. I’d have to throw in the aftershave commercial by Godard:

  4. aleksa

    Thanks for including the Rob Zombie one, I thought that was hysterical. Also, I’d had no idea that “got milk” commercial was Michael Bay. I guess I now have to say I liked SOMETHING of his career.

    • I was kind of shocked by the Aaron Burr/Michael Bay thing. I wish I could have found other ads that he directed. I found a lot but they were all the recent batch- Verizon, Victoria’s Secret, etc…

  5. These are great! Thanks for putting this list together. I’d love to see a part II.

    • You could easily do a Fincher-only list. Probably Bay, too. Both got their start making commercials. I think they even worked for the same company.

  6. You should make an ad, John! About baseball or something…

  7. Ben

    The Rob Zombie one is genius… even more so when you think he probably directed the “happy” sections of that advert too and that must have been his own personal torture!

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