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My Favourite Ian Gabriel Commercials

This is another addition to the globally popular ACES series of featuring commercial film directors that I admire for bringing creative concepts and storylines to filmic life that enthrall viewers.

Acknowledgements by the Advertising Communication industry, with accolades and international awards for their exemplary filmmaking craftsmanship, are hard-won and well deserved.

Ian Gabriel

South African Filmmaker and Director Ian Gabriel’s career began in his early twenties at Johannesburg’s famous theatre venue, Dorkay House.

His experiences of working with legendary black stage actors like Jimmy Sabe, Sam Williams and Barney Rachabane, kindled a passionate fascination of performance art that saw him eventually gravitate from stagecraft to filmcraft.

Ian started out as film producer, switched to directing music videos, commercials and lauded feature films, becoming internationally recognised as a filmmaker and director with exceptional visual flare for compelling narratives.

For his debut feature film ‘Forgiveness’, Ian received the Human Rights Award at the 57th Locarno International Film Festival in 2004.

That same year ‘Forgiveness’ also won the Best African Film Award and has since featured in programs focusing on conflict, drama and reconciliation at festivals around the world, and at programs at Cambridge and Princeton Universities.

Ian’s narrative feature film ‘Four Corners’ won many industry accolades that included Best International and USA Feature at the 2014 Santa Fe Independent Film Festival.

1. Nedgroup Investments, Ordinary Day

Advertising Agency: Brandlab, Cape Town, South Africa

‘Ordinary Day’ by Agency Brandlab, Production Company Giant Films, and directed by Ian Gabriel, was filmed In New York, USA, and centers on a dramatic recreation of an extraordinary event that made global headline news on 15 January 2009.

The commercial tells the remarkable story of US Airlines Flight 1549. After a bird strike that caused the loss of both engines, pilot Captain Chelsey B. Sullenburger safely landed the plane on the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 passengers on board.

A press release on the ‘MarkLives’ Advertising Industry News Portal quoted a remark from Captain Sullenburger about the Hudson River landing; “I guess I had spent my whole life preparing for that moment.”

And Phatheka Ncwana, head of marketing at Nedgroup Investments, elaborated on the commercial’s message of, ‘In the right hands, anything is possible’.

“This story of a pilot’s skill and expertise, and more importantly his calmness under pressure, met the criteria we were looking for to portray our investment philosophy. Just as the captain’s passengers trusted his ability to keep them safe, so our investors trust us to look after their funds and make the right decisions.”

The commercial was part an integrated campaign that included a web page with background information about the events on a day that for passengers and crew, started out as ordinary, and ended being extraordinary.

2. Mutzig Larger, Refresh Your Soul

Advertising Agency: MC Saatchi Abel, Cape Town, South Africa

Mützig is a beer brand owned by Heineken and its subsidiaries, and was originally brewed in 1810 by Brasserie Mutzig of Alsace, France.

Directed by Ian Gabriel, the ‘Refresh Your Soul’ commercial pays a celebratory tribute to the unique zest for life Cameroonian people possess.

In online trade press editorials Creative Director Matt Blitz elaborated on the agency’s Mutzig brand affinity communication initiative:

“We chose to create something that embodied the energy of Cameroon and through this, put a spotlight on the amazing people that you come across in this vibrant country.”

“We asked the question, “What makes you Cameroonian?” which opened us up to almost anything true to the country and its people.”

The soundtrack, by multi award-winning electronic musician and composer Markus Wormstorm, features traditional and contemporary Cameroonian rhythms that were sourced from diverse performers.

3. Continental Tyre Company, Alain Robert

Advertising Agency: M&C Saatchi Abel, Cape Town, South Africa

Filmed in Johannesburg, South Africa, Ian Gabriel directed the commercial of world-renowned free climber Alain Robert, who with nothing more than a small bag of chalk and a pair of climbing shoes, scaled the 91m tall IBM Building in a mere 15 minutes.

Alain Robert, who for the Continental Tyre Company embodies the superior grip and handling their customers can rely on, regardless of the conditions they encounter, began his climbing career in 1975.

He gravitated from rock climbing to the challenge of scaling buildings, the first being the 42-storey Citicorp Center in Chicago.

That feat was followed, by amongst others, the Eiffel Tower in France, Australia’s Sydney Opera House, New York’s Empire State Building and the world’s tallest building, the 828m Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

4. Sanlam Financial Services, Bright Idea

Advertising Agency: King James, Cape Town, South Africa

The ‘Bright Idea’ commercial, superbly directed by Ian Gabriel for Sanlam’s 100 years commemoration, is about building financial futures, lasting legacies and a better world for others to inherit.

The commercial’s utterly charming young star tells the story of a light bulb that’s still burning after 117 years. Her tale serves as a metaphor for ‘bright’ financial planning that delivers sustainable, long-term rewards.

5. Vodacom Mobile Operator Company, Play Everyday This Summer

Advertising Agency: Ogilvy, Johannesburg, South Africa

Directed by Ian Gabriel, this superbly paced commercial is a delightful story of a ‘breezy’ romp by some spirited ladies on a road trip through some of South Africa’s most scenic rural towns and landscapes located in the Western Cape.

6. RMB Banking Company, Thinking

Advertising Agency: Stick Communication, Johannesburg, South Africa

RMB Holdings Limited, previously known as Rand Merchant Bank Holdings, is a South African holding company of diversified financial services.

Ian Gabriel’s filmic direction atmospherically depicts scenes of South Africa’s best rowing talent in action as RMB’s ultimate analogy of teamwork, and collaboration practices, that are key to their business success.

South African Film Actor, Arts Activist, and Creative Union Head, Tony Kgoroga, is the engaging narrator of the RMB campaign that unfolds in three consecutive parts: preparation, competition, and reflections on success.

The ‘Thinking. Pulling. Together.’ campaign mantra serves to promote a process that aptly describes a path to collective strength and progress that South Africa’s future prosperity depends on.

7. RMB Banking Company, Pulling

Advertising Agency: Stick Communication, Johannesburg, South Africa

Film Director: Ian Gabriel

8. RMB Banking Company, Together

Advertising Agency: Stick Communication, Johannesburg, South Africa

Film Director: Ian Gabriel