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Conceptually Inspiring True Stories

Commercials based on inspirational true stories about people and events, past and present, abound with possibilities for enlightening message and meaning analogies about life, human insight, and personal triumphs.

1. Toyota, Upstream

Advertising Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi, Los Angeles, USA

Toyota’s sponsorship commercial for the 16th Summer Paralympic Games, scheduled to be held in Tokyo, Japan between 24 August and 5 September 2021, features 13-time Paralympic gold medallist Jessica Long.

Directed by filmmaker Tarsem Singh, I regard ‘Upstream’ to be a 60 second masterpiece of true-life storytelling.

When the Siberian adoption agency warned Jessica’s adoptive parents in the USA that she was born without fibulas, ankles and heels, her mother remarkably responded by saying; “It might not be easy, but it’ll be amazing. I can’t wait to meet her.”

Thanks to the unwavering love and support of her parents, Jessica made her inspiring Paralympic debut in 2014, when she was just 12 years old, after enduring the hardship and suffering of having both legs amputated below the knees.

She later became the second most-decorated Paralympian in 2016, when she left the Rio Paralympics with 23 medals.

2. Coronation Fund Managers, The Elephant Whisperer

Advertising Agency: FoxP2, Cape Town, South Africa

The film scenario of passionate dedication and perseverance, was inspired by lauded conservationist and author Lawrence Anthony’s true story bestseller, ‘The Elephant Whisperer’.

Filmmaker Robin Goode’s skilful direction in capturing the drama and challenges of the Anthonys’ adopting a herd of rogue elephants on their Thula-Thula Game Reserve, ensures compelling viewing.

The soundtrack narration is by Lawrence’s widow Françoise Malby-Anthony, and the part of Lawrence is played by renowned South African actor-director Albert Maritz.

3. Mercedes-Benz, The Journey That Changed Everything

Advertising Agency: Antoni Garage, Berlin, Germany

This Mercedes-Benz commercial honouring International Women’s Day brought filmmaker Sebastian Strasser’s superb storytelling skills to the fore.

The filmic scenario is about Bertha Benz’s decision in 1888 to ‘test drive’ her husband Carl Benz’s motorised carriage invention on a 160-km journey from Manheim to Pforzheim, and back again.

Her intention was to motivate Carl to keep the faith in the sustainability of his invention and to prove to skeptics that the motorised carriage was ‘fit-for-purpose’.

Bertha and her two sons Eugen and Richard left home early in the morning while Carl was still asleep, and made their way to Carl’s workshop to begin their journey that became a milestone in the history of motorised transportation.

The remarkable story of her determination to complete the journey and her resilience in overcoming problems encountered along the way, is a fitting tribute to International Women’s Day.

4. Sainsbury’s, Christmas Is For Sharing

Advertising Agency: AMV BBDO, London, UK

In the midst of the mayhem of WWI on the killing fields of Flanders, there was one brief respite from hostilities on Christmas Eve in 1914 when sanity prevailed.

Filmmaker Ringan Ledwidge, recalls that rare moment of reconciliation with evocative storytelling mastery to commemorate a remarkable historical event.

The ‘Christmas Truce’ was the most watched commercial in the event’s centenary year motivating 19.9 million views.
The commercial also celebrates the 20th anniversary of British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s partnership with The Royal British Legion’s charity, for which the campaign raised 7 million pounds.

The soundtrack was produced by Aaron Ray and features the English version of ‘Stille Nacht”, written in 1818 by Austrian pastor Joseph Mohr to music composed by Franz Gruber.

5. Pedigree, General William Howe’s Dog

Advertising Agency: BBDO, New York, USA

This Mars Petcare short film, directed by filmmaker Noam Murro for their Pedigree brand’s ‘Feel the Good’ campaign, is based on a little known true story that occurred during the 1777 American War of Independence against British rule.

Amidst the fighting, a terrier made its way into General Washington’s camp, and the dog’s collar identified it as belonging to General Howe, the British Army’s Commander-in- Chief.

To the surprise of his revolutionary forces, General Washington, an avid dog-lover himself, decided to graciously return the terrier to his enemy.

The moral of the story effectively underlines the Pedigree brand’s proposition that ‘dogs bring out the good in one’.

6. Johnnie Walker Blue Label, The Game Changer

Advertising Agency: BBH, Shanghai, China

40 years after his death at the age of 32, with the use of Computer Generated Imagery (CGI), Bruce Lee has been brought back to life to inspire and uplift a new generation of young people to seek self-improvement.

The commercial was a passionate filmic endeavour by Korean-American film director Joseph Kahn in collaboration with Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon.

Bruce Lee (1940-1973)

Not only did he introduce Chinese martial arts to the West, he also changed the way Chinese minorities were seen abroad, breaching that cultural gap between East & West.

He studied philosophy and drama at the University of Washington, chose martial arts as his means of self-expression and became a Hollywood actor. His most famous starring role was in ‘Enter The Dragon’. It is considered to be one of the greatest martial arts movies of all time.

‘Enter The Dragon’ was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2004, for being “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant”.

He inspired millions of people to seek self-improvement and Time Magazine rates Bruce Lee as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century and the greatest martial arts icon of modern, popular culture.