Laurence Green: why Ringan Ledwidge was a great director

Creative Ambition, Realised: Ringan Ledwidge, 1971-2021.

Advertising reaches for hyperbole too readily: it’s our stock in trade, after all. But adjusting to the wickedly premature passing of Ringan Ledwidge last week, there was nowhere else for adland to go.
Ad Age, in particular, was right to describe Ringan as a ‘cinematic giant’ rather than just (just!) ‘creative legend.’

I first met Ringan back in Fallon’s early days. He’d shot a trademark VW Polo ad for our creative co-founders Richard Flintham and Andy McLeod while they were at BMP DDB. The three of them were now in creative cahoots, giddy as schoolboys, pushing each other on to ever more daring scrapes.

These were heady times: we were all scratching around on the brink of something. Ringan shot Fallon’s first work: five rock solid commercials for Radio 1. (Yes, five.)

His reel was – is – absurdly good, from Elbow’s sublime ‘One Day Like This’ video (below) to Massive Attack and Young Fathers frankly terrifying ‘Voodoo in my Blood.’ Three films still manage to stand out for me for sheer bravura and craft.

Ringan guided us effortlessly across two centuries of British history in two minutes in ‘Go On, Lad’ for Hovis. Titanic, The Blitz, 1966, the miner’s strike: it’s all there, yet somehow unrushed. It’s as good today as it’s ever been: a short film that was great advertising too.

‘Christmas is for Sharing’, for Sainsbury’s, was a commercial that could have gone so very wrong and instead came out so very, very right. Another audacious story – and production – beautifully tethered to a brand that has been on a drunken Christmas walk ever since.

And finally: Audi ‘Clowns’: my favourite commercial of recent years and a textbook example of storytelling restraint. Of leaving the audience to complete the sentence.

Good direction, I’m told, is appreciated as just that. Great direction removes rather than reveals the director’s hand.

Ringan Ledwidge was a great director.

Laurence Green was co-founder of Fallon London and 101. He is now an independent adviser to creative businesses.

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