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My Favourite Tarsem Singh Commercials

This is another in the globally popular ACES series of featuring commercial filmmakers and directors that I admire for their skills in bringing creative concepts, and storylines to enthralling life.

Tarsem Singh

Feature film director, and sought after director of commercials, Tarsem Singh, from Jalandhar, Punjab, India, and graduate of the Pasadena, California, Art Center College of Design, started his filmmaking career working on music videos.

His aesthetically impressive “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M, won Best Music Video, at the 1992 Grammy Awards, and his feature film directorial debut was ‘The Cell’ starring Jennifer Lopez in 2000.

1. CrowdStrike, Troy

Advertising Agency: CrowdStrike In-house, Austin, Texas, USA

Production and Media Company: Radical Media, Los Angeles, California, USA

Post Production and VFX Studios: Framestore, Los Angeles, California, USA

Production Service Company: ZAK Productions, Marrakesh, Morocco

(American cybersecurity technology company, CrowdStrike Holdings, based in Austin, Texas, provides cloud workload and endpoint security, threat intelligence, and cyberattack response services)

CrowdStrike’s 2023 Big Game commercial, masterly directed by filmmaker Tarsem Singh, and filmed on location in the Moroccan desert, using additional drone captured film footage, comes to fabled life in a humorous analogy, of the siege on the legendary citadel of Troy, by a ‘threat intelligence Trojan Horse’.

The spectacular scale and scope  of film sets, and special effects, are hugely impressive and equally rewarding to view.

2. Toyota, Upstream

Advertising Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi, Los Angeles, USA

Toyota’s sponsorship commercial for the 16th Summer Paralympic Games, held in Tokyo, Japan, between 24 August and 5 September 2021, featured 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.

3. KIA Soul, A New Way to Roll

Advertising Agency: David & Goliath, Los Angeles, California, USA

Production Company: Radical Media, Los Angeles, California, USA

Visual Effects Studios: Framestore, London, UK

Directed by filmmaker Tarsem Singh, this was the first commercial to feature the ultra-cool KIA ‘Soul Hamsters’. It was also the start of a remarkable success story of what would become one of the longest running, and multi-awarded advertising campaigns in the recent history of Automotive Advertising.

David & Goliath’s inspired scenario about a positive, pro-active attitude to life, self-expression, and breaking out of the daily tedium of sameness by finding “A New Way To Roll”, featured life-sized, music-loving hamsters, that rapidly became pop-culture icons.

By popular vote, KIA’s Soul Hamsters in 2011, were selected by the public for induction in Madison Avenue’s Annual Advertising Walk of Fame; the only automotive brand on record ever to be accorded this honour.

For music lovers, the KIA Soul commercial was launched with different soundtracks featuring the song “Fort Knox” by Goldfish, and rapper Marz’s, Pack & Mumiez, “Do What You Do”.

4. Levi’s 501, Washroom

Advertising Agency: BBH, London, UK

Production Company: RadicalMedia, London, UK

Masterly directed by filmmaker Tarsem Singh, in the style of an ironic Quentin Tarantino crime escapade, and filmed on location at a sleazy looking Los Angeles gas station in 1996, the scenario features a girl on the run and her quick change of identity and clothes in the men’s washroom.

The actress is Ana Cristina de Oliveira, and the soundtrack music is “Falling Elevators” by the US avant-garde group, MC 900 Ft. Jesus.

I greatly admire the potentially controversial boldness of the commercial for that time, and the brave decision of the client in agreeing to showcase his brand in a non-salubrious setting, that does not reflect Los Angeles in a glamorous light.

5. Pepsi, Kung Fu Monastery

BBDO advertising agency: BBDO, Paris, France

Production Company: RadicalMedia, London, UK

Released in 2002, The Pepsi ‘Kung Fu’ scenario about a young lad’s initiation to Martial Arts at a Shaolin Temple, a Buddhist monastery in China, and his ten years of training, is possibly one of Pepsi’s most entertaining commercials to date.

Directed by filmmaker Tarsem Singh, the commercial stars five-time martial arts world champion, and actor, Matthew Mullins, and features a soundtrack by London based, cinematographer, graphic designer, editor, and composer, Ken Flanagan.

6. Levi’s 501, Swimmer

Advertising Agency: BBH, London, UK

Production Company: RadicalMedia, London, UK

Directed by Tarsem Singh, the 1992 Cannes Silver Lion winning commercial, features a soundtrack of the words and music of Sir Noel Coward’s song, “Mad About The Boy” sung by Dinah Washington.

7. Levi’s 501, Campfire

Advertising Agency: BBH, London, UK

Production Companies: RadicalMedia, London, UK, and Spots Films, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Directed by Tarsem Singh, this 1993 Cannes Award winning commercial, is a romanticised story of a cowboy in his crotch riveted Levis 501 jeans, who gets a little too close to the campfire, appealingly recalls the Levi’s brand’s American Wild West heritage.

The soundtrack song, “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash, was an inspired choice that resonated with millions of viewers.

8. Levi’s 501, Voodoo

Advertising Agency: FCB, San Fransisco, California, USA

Production Company: RadicalMedia, New York, USA

Directed by filmmaker Tarsem Singh, and filmed in New Orleans, starring actress Jaime Presley, this atmospheric Levi’s 501 commercial, about an ounce of provocative button-fly ‘steel’, caused much controversy at the time, and consequently, was not aired on TV.

The controversy however, sparked wide public online interest in the commercial, and Levi’s ‘Voodoo’ subsequently, accrued an impressive global record, of viewing and sharing fame.

9. PepsiCo, Pepsi Gladiators

Advertising Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, London, UK

Production Company: Glassworks, London, UK

Looking back at decades of American Super Bowl commercials, the  spectacular, foot-stomping ’Pepsi Gladiators’, that took a 100 million plus viewers of the 2004 Big Game championships, of all ages, by storm, for me reigns supreme.

Directed by esteemed filmmaker Tarsem Singh, and filmed at the Coliseum in Rome, the commercial stars Enrique Iglesias as a villainous Roman Emperor, and Britney Spears, Pink, and Beyoncé, as gladiators who turn Queen’s, Grammy Hall of Fame song,“We Will Rock You” into an anthem of girl-power.

The entertaining impact of PepsiCo’s iconic Super Bowl commercial, with its once in a lifetime trio of performance talent, is an exceptional creative enterprise.