Through video commercials, brands can:
- promote products or services
- drive brand recognition
- develop positive associations with their cause in the mind of the public,
- Do all three at the same time!
A commercial that airs during a large televised event like the Olympics or Superbowl can easily reach the eyes and ears of billions of people around the world. In more recent years, social media sites such as YouTube have made it possible to broadcast commercials even wider, with the most popular becoming ‘viral’ sensations, spreading to even more societal groups.
Developments in technology have caused the previously undoubtable effectiveness of commercials to come into contention. It is now possible, with the increased use of streaming services to avoid watching adverts entirely. This makes it essential for directors to create intriguing content that compels audiences to strip themselves away from the dreaded ‘skip adverts’ button.
The ultra tech-savvy public can now easily discern a half-heartedly produced piece of work and this can irreversibly harm a brand’s image. An effective video commercial director ensures that the goal of a brand’s marketing campaign is properly communicated through video format, whether through humour, surrealism, gut-wrenching emotion, great casting, animation, or perhaps a bit of everything!
Did you know that many world-famous film directors began their careers in commercial directing? Both Ridley Scott and Spike Jonze fall into this bracket! These directors, known for their atmospheric and highly concentrated visual style, nurtured their skills through their beginnings in the advertising industry.
Let’s take a look at some of the best commercial directors of 2021.
1. Nick Ball – For When its Time (Wrigleys)
The impact of COVID on all walks of life cannot be overstated, commercial directors are taking full advantage of the marketability of this. One of the many adverts to focus on the social impact of the pandemic on the population is For When it’s Time by Wrigleys.
The advert presents a vision of what the day will be like when all restrictions are completely lifted. It reminds audiences of the joy of life, how little things such as a hug or a genuine smile can uplift a whole population back to normalcy.
Despite Ball’s surreal nature of direction, the overt branding of the advert isn’t even lost. You can, of course, be more confident getting close to people if you have some Wrigley’s Extra gum on hand!
The song ‘It’s All Coming Back to Me Now’’ performed by Céline Dion, originally released in 1996 has seen a resurgence since its appearance in the commercial. Currently, it is at the centre of a TikTok trend, with over 40,000 videos featuring the song.
2. Chris Balmond – ‘Welcome Back’ (Guinness)
Not all commercials need to have the million-dollar production value of Superbowl ads, ones with much lower costs can be just as effective.
Initially, Balmond’s commercial, seems simple, almost too simple, it may even take a few viewings to fully understand his vision – but that’s okay! Commercials are designed to be shown countless times. Welcome Back’ contains an undercurrent of emotion, again drawing on our experiences faced during COVID. Each opening shot uncannily mirrors the classic image of a creamy pint of Guinness with completely random objects whilst a gentle cover of the Elvis classic ‘Always on My Mind’ plays alongside.
As the message slowly becomes clear, bitter-sweet memories of our first trips to the pub after lockdown are brought back to our consciousness.
It was voted the best TV ad to debut in summer 2021 and claimed a Thinkbox Award.
3. Mike Warzin – ‘Last Years Lemons’ (Bud Light Seltzer)
Warzin, quite literally taking a ‘when life gives you lemons’ view of the pandemic presents us with a funny and relatable commercial to advertise their new product.
It’s inspired by the awkward moments of the pandemic, from D.I.Y haircuts to rainy garden parties. The undeniably fun theme reflects the product it is marketing.
4. Si & Ad – ‘This Christmas, Nothings Stopping Us’ (Tesco)
Tesco’s 2021 submission to the yearly battle of the British Christmas adverts reminded audiences (with a classic Queen hit) that after a tough year of uncertainty, Christmas was on!
Alessandra Bellini, Chief Customer Officer at Tesco announced that “research revealed that people are looking forward to meaningful get-togethers with their loved ones again and given the backdrop of cancelled plans of last year they won’t let anything stop them from having a proper celebration this year”
Directors Si & Ad took this idea and ran. By creating a hugely enjoyable advert incorporating our everyday pandemic troubles with a touch of comedy, surrealism, and of course, festivity, they demonstrated that our favourite holiday traditions could still go ahead despite all we were facing.
The memorable image of Santa showing his vaccine passport to enter Britain, despite rousing some negative attention, perfectly encapsulates the creative aim of the directing duo.
5. Dom & Nic – Percy Pig comes to life for the first time EVER! (M&S)
You will surely remember several of this directing twosome’s video campaigns, their heartwarming and bittersweet ‘Life’s Steps’ Rightmove advert has become a staple on British TV in recent years since its release in 2017.
Evermore successful British actor Tom Holland (Spiderman) was entrusted to give Percy his first-ever voice, and it sounds great! Using animated characters in adverts is a sure-fire way to stand out from the crowd. Frequently when polled, the most memorable adverts are those with animated characters in, for instance, the Compare the Market Meerkat.
To see if animation is right for your video campaign check this out.
6. David Shane – ‘ScissorHandsFree’ (Cadillac) + ‘Sweet Victory’ (Paramount)
Shane directed two of the biggest and most successful Superbowl ad campaigns of 2021.
Both were ingeniously created and hugely original, particularly in an industry that tends to repeat itself. ‘ScissorHandsFree’ in particular struck a chord, the video went viral on Twitter, largely down to the reintroduction into the world of Edward Scissorhands and the casting of Oscar-nominated actor Timothée Chalamet as his son Edgar.
7. Tarsem Singh – ‘Jessica Long’s Story’ (Toyota)
Singh, director of the visually striking, critically acclaimed film ‘The Fall’, created this moving commercial that was more than just about car sales, in fact, there isn’t a single car to be seen in the whole video.
Created to present themselves as a proud sponsor of Team USA in the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Singh demonstrates that not all commercials need to focus on self-promotion, demonstrating your brand’s core values can be just as effective in gaining the respect of prospective customers.
8. ThirtyTwo (Dylan Southern & Will Lovelace) – ‘Play New’ (Nike)
The duo ‘ThirtyTwo’ notably directed the touching 2020 Sainsburys’ Christmas advert ‘Gravy Song’, which garnered mass attention after internet trolls encouraged a boycott of the store as it showed a black family enjoying and discussing their holiday traditions.
‘Play New’ has a similar uplifting feel to ‘Gravey Song’, and fortunately drew much more positive media attention, achieving nearly 90 million views on Youtube. One user commented:
‘This is the most relatable athletics commercial I have ever seen. Depicting realities any athlete can instantly recognize.’
Audiences can observe that Nike understands that the majority of their wearers are not Olympians or professional sportspeople, but more often people just giving healthy activity a go.
The commercial has a strong ‘indie’ feel, an intrinsic feature of the duo’s pronounced directing style. The saturated ‘golden-hour’ colour pallet and beautiful cinematography contribute to the success of ‘Play New’, turning it from a simple commercial to an inspirational short film.
9. David Dearlove – ‘Long Live the Prince’ (The Kiyan Prince Foundation)
Commercials promoting the message of a charity, in most cases to attract monetary donations to help endeavor their cause can be some of the most impactful forms of video marketing. It is the job of the director to create a piece that is emotive but not stereotypical or demeaning. Charity commercials must promote action not apathy in their audience.
A successful, well-directed commercial could be a lifeline for not only the charity, but the communities, people, or animals they help.
To mark the 15th anniversary of schoolboy footballing prodigy, Kiyan Prince’s murder, the ‘Long Live the Prince’ campaign was created. As part of this campaign to raise awareness of the growing epidemic of knife crime and ways to reduce it, Prince was posthumously signed by his former club Queens Park Rangers, and introduced as a playable character in EA SPORTS™ FIFA 21.
Together, Dearlove and The Kiyan Prince Foundation created this powerful commercial to promote their objective to use ‘life coaching and sports to empower young people to create thriving communities and a violence-free society’ and to encourage audiences to donate to ‘help us help young people’.
10. Simon Shergold – Testosterone Deficiency Men’s Health Campaign (Bayer Health)
One million British men have a testosterone deficiency, before this advert was brought out, just 8% received help and treatment. Men over 50 notoriously downplay their health problems and shy away from seeking medical opinions. This small-budget commercial created by Kartoffel Films and directed by Simon Shergold was designed to encourage this societal group to seek help and support them in their journey by providing information and treatment plans.
To most effectively attract the attention of your target audience, your advert must relate to them. This is why Shergold and Kartoffel Films decided to use visual and audio queues that the targeted age group would recognise, (Harry Redknapp, football, locker room chat, men that look like them). The video successfully garnered the attention of a group notoriously private about their health.
The advert was a resounding success, according to the TackleTD website, ‘Social activations reached 400,000 with 300,000 video views with over 15,000 website visits and two-thirds completing the symptom checker – 70% indicating possible TD! Thousands then attended a doctor’s appointment leading to an astonishing 13% increase in those seeking help’
Testament to Shergold’s skill as a director, the advert won the Communique Award for Excellence in Engagement Through Digital Channels. And also the PRCA – Health and Wellbeing Award.
Every director/ directing collaboration listed in our top 10 of 2021 selection above can teach creatives something to then apply to future video concepts. Whether it be a multi-million dollar or low-budget project, taking inspiration from the creative accomplishments of peers in the field not only enriches our media but also allows us to positively contribute to the ever-evolving nature of video advertising.
From poignant shots of friends enjoying an embrace after months of confinement to hilarious animated pigs, it is evident that the directors shown above, employed by corporations, have more than fulfilled their objective of:
- promoting products or services,
- driving brand recognition
- developing positive associations with a cause in the mind of the public,
- Doing all three at the same time!
If you would like to create your own amazing video commercial for your business or charity, drop us a line!
Maybe it will feature on next year’s Top 10 Video Commercial Directors!