Spike Jonze’s Imaginative TV Ads

Spike Jonze has made a name for him­self as a wild­ly inven­tive direc­tor of music videos and fea­ture films, like Being John Malkovich and Adap­ta­tion. He has also cre­at­ed some of the most dis­tinc­tive tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials of the past decade. Today we bring you a few of his great­est hits.

In late 2002 Jonze cre­at­ed a stir with his IKEA com­mer­cial, “Lamp” (above). The 60-sec­ond spot went on to win the Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions Inter­na­tion­al Adver­tis­ing Fes­ti­val. Boards mag­a­zine list­ed “Lamp” as one of the top 10 com­mer­cials of the decade, writ­ing:

Spike Jonze’s incred­i­bly human direct­ing touch cre­at­ed a believ­able ten­der­ness between a woman and her new Ikea light­ing, elic­it­ing pure empa­thy for a lone­ly, dis­card­ed object, left to suf­fer curb­side in the rain, and then shat­tered it all with one bril­liant stroke of cast­ing that abrupt­ly and brusque­ly brought us all back to real­i­ty.

Jonze’s star­tling Gap com­mer­cial, “Dust,” (above) became a YouTube sen­sa­tion imme­di­ate­ly fol­low­ing its release in 2005, but the com­pa­ny pulled the 90-sec­ond ad after test­ing it in only a few cities. Per­haps the spec­ta­cle of a cor­po­rate brand exu­ber­ant­ly doing vio­lence to its image was a bit too much for the boys in the board­room. The deci­sion to shelve the ad made the com­pa­ny look even less hip than before. As Seth Steven­son wrote in Slate, “I just can’t under­stand spend­ing all that mon­ey on a big-name direc­tor, and a big-bud­get shoot, and then frit­ter­ing the results away on such a lim­it­ed pur­pose. Did Gap not see the pos­si­bil­i­ties? Were they too scared to go for broke?”

Anoth­er ground-break­ing Jonze com­mer­cial from 2005, “Hel­lo Tomor­row,” (above) was made to intro­duce a self-adjust­ing, “intel­li­gent” sneak­er from Adi­das. The spot uses spe­cial effects to cre­ate the impres­sion of a lucid dream. The music was cre­at­ed by Jonze’s broth­er, Sam “Squeak E. Clean” Spiegel (Jonze’s birth name is Adam Spiegel) and sung by his girl­friend at the time, Karen O of the band Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The ad received many awards, includ­ing two Gold Lions at Cannes. The sneak­er was dropped by Adi­das in 2006, but the com­mer­cial lives on.

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Comments (3)
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  • pethr says:

    A cou­ple years ago I wrote under the lamp add:

    “Well, it’s still a f‑lamp. I mean how much bet­ter can it be? The prob­lem of our civ­i­liza­tion is that we con­sume far too much for no good rea­son.”

    I still believe it to be true. It may well be true that the “bril­liant stroke of cast­ing” brought us back to real­i­ty, but I do not like the real­i­ty.

  • darby says:

    i heard that spike’s ikea lamp ad actu­al­ly did not boost sales at ikea. in fact, sales tanked as a result of this lamp. (i have no lit­er­a­ture to back that up… i just heard it). but isn’t the point of a great com­mer­cial, actu­al­ly to sell the prod­uct? it’s a won­der­ful sto­ry! won­der­ful­ly exe­cut­ed! i’m a fan of his work… but should­n’t these “great” com­mer­cials also be judged on their effec­tive­ness?

  • Mike Springer says:

    Accord­ing to Wikipedia, U.S. sales at IKEA rose eight per­cent dur­ing the peri­od in which “Lamp” was broad­cast.

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