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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  • 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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