1. Ringan Ledwidge
Ledwidge was behind the camera on the UK’s most talked-about ad this year – Sainsbury’s "Christmas is for sharing". And it is to his credit that even commentators who thought the retailer crossed a line when it co-opted World War I lore for commercial gain took time to add that the film was beautifully shot. The Rattling Stick director was also involved in another blockbuster in 2014, "winner stays" for Nike, which starred an ensemble cast of the world’s top footballers. Ledwidge was clearly at the top of his game this year.
2. Juan Cabral
MJZ’s Cabral is not what you would call prolific. In fact, his name was attached to only one UK ad this year – Ikea’s "beds" – but that was enough to remind everyone that he is still one of the best at what he does. The craft on display in the spot is unmatched – everything, from the cinematography to the grading, was done masterfully. It was the ad that many people who work in production would say they wished they had made and, for that reason, Cabral earns his place on this list.
3. Dougal Wilson
John Lewis’ 2013 Christmas campaign was a success, but that didn’t stop people from remarking that the work had lost something. It’s entirely possible that Blink’s Wilson was the difference. He wasn’t involved in last year’s project but was back for the 2014 campaign and commentators have said "Monty the penguin" is a return to form for John Lewis’ advertising. Wilson’s other long-term collaboration, with Wieden & Kennedy for Lurpak, again proved the perfect platform to display his visual and technical wizardry.
4. Andy McLeod
In 2013, Rattling Stick’s McLeod was notable for the diversity of his reel. This year, he appears to have made, almost exclusively, amusing ads – Paddy Power’s "fat watch", Ginsters’ "the joke" and "peace keeper" for Richmond sausages among them. His crowning glory must be "#WinChristmas" for Mulberry, however. The ad owes something to Harvey Nichols’ multi-award-winning "sorry, I spent it on myself" (both were created by Adam & Eve/DDB) but is funnier.
5. Jonathan Glazer
Much like Cabral, Glazer only shoots the occasional ad these days. But they are always worth waiting for. This year, the Academy director’s "gladiator football" spot for Canon portrayed a game of calcio storico as a glorious melee and evoked memories of his previous classics, such as "park life" for Nike. Just don’t expect to see many more soon. His feature film Under The Skin was released earlier this year and has been described as a "masterpiece".
6. Simon Ratigan
It has been a solid 2014 for HLA’s Ratigan. The pick of his work this year was "#hibernot" for Land Rover. Ratigan’s vision brought to life Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R’s simple and memorable idea with deserved aplomb. Ratigan’s spot for The Guardian, "dreaming about this weekend", also showed his class and made charming use of quick cuts.
7. Daniel Wolfe
Wolfe only occasionally crops up in the advertising world’s collective consciousness; the Somesuch & Co director has shot nice spots for Cobra and San Miguel in the past. But Wolfe’s name must surely be on the lips of top agencies after he directed "the other side" for Honda. The interactive spot enabled users to switch between two parallel films at the touch of a button and must have required mind-melting attention to detail. Wolfe’s debut film, Catch Me Daddy, also earned positive reviews – while many more senior directors took a few goes to get it right.
8. James Rouse
Outsider’s Rouse has had a quiet 2014. Of course, this is compared with 2013, when he was the darling of the industry after directing spots for brands including Marmite and Harvey Nichols. The time spent collecting all those awards must have crossed out a few days in his diary. But Rouse did still produce some quality work in 2014, most notably for Volkswagen Golf and Dixons.
9. Marcus Söderlund
Academy’s Söderlund was behind the camera on Volvo’s "the swell". Though some criticised the clichéd use of a surfer to imply tranquility, the visuals and audio were exquisite. Söderlund also directed Avis’ "unlock the world", which, again, showed a fine cinematographic eye, as well as a simple but effective spot for Vodafone called "the call".
10. Johnny Hardstaff
RSA Films was strong in 2014. A Super Bowl spot for Budweiser and online film for Johnnie Walker with Jude Law were among the biggest successes. In terms of the company’s UK-based directors, Hardstaff stood out with spots for the Royal Marines ("they came from the sea") and a film to promote Kenco’s "coffee vs gangs" campaign.