De Beers Commercial Director Aimed for ‘Emotional Punch’

The director of “Steps,” the new De Beers holiday commercial that began airing at Thanksgiving, wanted a commercial that delivered a maximum “emotional punch,” he told JCK in an exclusive interview.

Stephen Daldry is better known for directing such critically acclaimed films as The Hours and Billy Elliot. “Steps” is his first American commercial.

“I’ve had a lot of offers to do commercials, and I can be fairly selective in what I choose,” he says. “What attracted me here is the challenge of telling a story that has an emotional impact that will resonate with people in a compressed 30-second time frame.”

The commercial opens with a couple walking through London’s Trafalgar Square, when the husband tells his wife he’d marry her all over again. As they walk toward the steps of the National Gallery, she spots her parents, much to her surprise. The couple’s friends and family appear as well. Then, surrounded by loved ones, the husband gives his wife a three-stone diamond ring and asks her to marry him … again. The woman is speechless, and the commercial ends with a shot of the ring.

Daldry chose Trafalgar Square because it offers a unique mix of the “public and the private.” The ad took two days to shoot but was preceded by months of preparation. He was lucky, though, Daldry adds, because the couple in the commercial “had chemistry right away.”

While he doesn’t know if he will direct another diamond commercial, Daldry says working with De Beers and the J. Walter Thompson team was a “great” experience.