Scots John Lewis ad director enjoys latest success

The new John Lewis home insurance advert by Dougal Wilson, below. He says he had no idea the retailer's commercials would become such a phenomenon. Picture: Contributed

The new John Lewis home insurance advert by Dougal Wilson, below. He says he had no idea the retailer's commercials would become such a phenomenon. Picture: Contributed

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A SCOT who has been hailed one of the top ten commercial directors in the world began his career filming his friend’s music videos in parks, and spending hours on end making amateur show reels, he has revealed.

Dougal Wilson is the director of the latest hit advert by John Lewis to melt the hearts of British TV audiences, as an earnest young ballet dancer bumps her way round her house to the tune of Elton John’s Tiny Dancer.

The 43-year-old, from Edinburgh, said yesterday that his career has not always been so upmarket and glamorous, as he recalled years of creating his own commercials, and filming them while desperately trying to fight the wet Scottish weather - before transferring them on to VHS cassettes.

But the creative fanatic has now worked on some of the most memorable John Lewis Christmas adverts, including Monty the penguin and the boy who can’t wait for Christmas.

Mr Wilson said: “When I first graduated I was too scared to move to London, even though I knew that is where one had to go if they wanted to have their big break.

“It’s great to be working on John Lewis adverts, but it didn’t just happen overnight.”

Sometimes we’d be in the office until 2am

Dougal Wilson

Mr Wilson studied natural science at Durham University, before moving back home to Edinburgh to take up a job as part of a junior creative team at the Leith Agency. He said: “I started off writing ideas for particular adverts - I did a few for Irn Bru and Tennants.

“Sometimes we’d be in the office until 2am, it was really hard work. But having to constantly come up with my own ideas has got me to where I am today.”

As well as his day job, Mr Wilson spent a lot of time making his own short films and producing his friends’ music videos.

In the 90s, he was the producer for Edinburgh bands Mydas and The Stacy Effect, and worked on many of their music videos - shooting them in local parks and derelict airfields.

During his eight years working on creating commercials at the Leith-based company, Mr Wilson began moonlighting as a director and it wasn’t long before he was snapped up by a large production company in London, called Blink.

Mr Wilson said: “I spent ages making show reels and putting them on to VHS cassettes but I got offered my job with Blink without even needing them.

“At first I was terrified to leave Edinburgh, but I thought I should give London a go.”

Since working with Blink, he’s directed promos for Coldplay, Jarvis Cocker and Goldfrapp.

Mr Wilson, who works with Scottish producer Ewen Brown, said: “I started out doing small budget adverts at first. Even when I first started working on the John Lewis adverts they weren’t that well established - we had no idea they’d become a phenomenon.”

Gerry Farrell, who hired Mr Wilson to work at the Leith Agency, said: “I don’t know when it’s going to happen or what the movie’s going to be but one day he’s going to make a Hollywood blockbuster.”

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