Director Chris Palmer is profiled in this month’s issue of Creative Review, where he discusses his journey through the world of advertising, from his early days as a copywriter to becoming a director and running Gorgeous Productions, as well as his current interest in moving towards feature film direction.
This news may strike a blow to the advertising world, as Palmer has created some of the best-loved ads of recent years. These include Skoda’s Baking of…, which saw an entire car created out of cake, and Carlsberg’s Old Lions, where a group of veteran England players form the ‘Best Pub Team in the World’, both of which cleaned up at the recent BTACA Awards. As an extension to the magazine piece, we’ve brought together some of Palmer’s greatest recent ads here, alongside his personal commentary on his work.
Skoda, The Baking Of…, directed by Chris Palmer
The aforementioned ad for Skoda, shown above, was an epic undertaking involving an ingredients list that included 180 eggs and 100kg of caster sugar. The ad became something of a documentary of the making of the car-cake, with the modelmakers themselves starring in the spot. “I knew exactly what I wanted to do in my head and we had four days to do it,” Palmer says of the shoot. “The interesting thing with this one was obviously we couldn’t do a rehearsal so we were literally finding things out as we went along. But I did play the role of the madman – I’d stand there saying, ‘what I’d like to do is this…’, looking around at a mass of faces with their jaws open, shaking their heads. Basically I had the world against me saying, ‘please don’t do it like that, please don’t [make it from real cake]’.”
“It was an interesting process talking to the modelmakers – it is insane, talking to a group of modelmakers about how I want to make a car out of cake. Just the initial tests, working out what the basic cake was at the beginning, was a trip in itself. The thing about things like that is that when they are finished, it’s so bloody easy and obvious, but the process is so different. I mean, I saw some horrendous… I saw things no human eye should see in the cake department.”
The Simpsons live action opening credits, directed by Chris Palmer
Palmer was also behind this ad for The Simpsons, which saw him recreate the opening sequence of the show in live action. The spot ended 2007 as the most watched ad of all time on YouTube. “I really wanted to do the Simpsons one,” he says. “Because it was a challenge…”
“It’s interesting because while The Simpsons was the sixth or seventh most popular thing ever on YouTube, it didn’t do anything at the awards,” he continues. “People all thought it would, but I don’t think it was deemed good enough…”
Transport for London commercial, directed by Chris Palmer
While The Simpsons spot may not have enjoyed awards success, Palmer is no stranger to making the walk to the awards podium, having picked up nearly 20 D&AD Awards over the years, including three for direction, and four Cannes Gold Awards. Two of these were for his shocking spot for Transport for London, shown above, which aimed to promote road safety amongst teenagers and was shot using the camera in a mobile phone.
Despite his awards success, he retains a healthy awareness of their fleeting nature. “The thing about awards is that it’s better to get them than not get them, but I don’t know whether they help you get better scripts in, I don’t know whether they give you more clout when you do a job,” he says. “To be quite honest, you forget about them the next day. I’ve never been distracted by having success at the awards or whatever – you knew you were right back to zero the next day, which is horrible and nice at the same time.”
Carlsberg, Old Lions commercial, directed by Chris Palmer
To read more about Palmer and Gorgeous Productions, including his opinions on the state of the advertising industry today, see the Feburary issue of Creative Review.