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Should David Fincher direct your next TV commercial?

On a recent trip to England I bought a copy of Campaign to read a front page piece that set me thinking: David Fincher to direct UK ads.

Enlisting high profile feature film directors to shoot TV commercials is nothing new, of course. Most feature film directors started out directing TV commercials, which is logical, but is it as logical to use directors who are established and successful makers of feature films to direct your next TV commercial? I suspect many might answer that question by saying it all depends on the script. But does it really? It would certainly depend on the budget.

What if the script is more appropriate for Wes Anderson? Or David Cronenberg? Or Kathryn Bigelow? Would that mean ditching the script to write a new one to suit David Fincher, or simply informing Mr Fincher that he has lost out on this one? What seems to be a more pertinent question is what kind of script is dependent on the input of a top feature film director in order for its potential to be realized to the full? Is it really true that at least one of the top production houses in the region could not recommend a director capable of delivering a superb job for every type of script and concept? Would a top Hollywood features director really guarantee clearly discernible added value? Some would no doubt argue that to be the case, but surely clients have every right to ask “how much added value?” and also have every right to expect some kind of attempted answer to that fundamentally unanswerable question.

David Fincher is a fine film director, that is not in question, what I am not so sure about is whether it is possible for any film director who has 120 minutes to showcase their subtlety, nuance, power, mood creation, mise-en-scene mastery and individual aesthetic intention to make the same irreplaceable stamp of identity in 60 or 30 seconds? A key question is whether the effectiveness of the communication would be reduced if Mr Fincher or any of the other above named directors were not involved? Surely the answer to that question can’t be ‘it all depends on the script’ – yet what other feasible answer is there? Surely the effectiveness of any TVC depends almost entirely on the script. Even so, the temptation to hire a high profile director for agency PR purposes rather than add intrinsic value to the commercial must be great.

It is clearly the responsibility of every ad agency to deliver the best possible result for its clients, so if a certain features director is considered indispensable, then fine. It is also the responsibility of the agency to deliver a dollars value for every production dollar spent – when that happens everybody is happy.

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