Julian Gratton

Bringing magical memories to the small screen in our cottages4you and VisitEngland TV Advert

It’s less than a week to go until our new TV advert campaign for cottages4you and VisitEngland is launched, so we thought it would be a good opportunity to look back on everything we’ve achieved – boy has it been a whirlwind few months!

This project started over 6 months ago, when we were asked to pitch for a joint campaign with cottages4you and VisitEngland. That in itself presented quite a challenge: 2 separate clients each with a different objective. It meant we really had to put our heads to together to come up with a cracking ad that essentially met 2 briefs! We knew it would be tricky but we couldn’t wait to start.

Getting under the skin

We began by writing pen portraits of our target market, asking ourselves who they were, what they were interested in and how could we engage with them. Then we armed the creative team with marker pens, layout pads and a huge tub of biscuits. Several hours and countless cups of tea later, we had 4 strong concepts that we felt delivered on both brands’ propositions. Clearly the client felt the same…we won the pitch!

Suddenly it was all systems go. Casting, music, voiceovers, location. Everything needed to be decided. And then there was the question of when to shoot and what would the weather be like? It’s an age-old problem. You want to shoot a stunning ad that showcases the beauty of England bathed in gorgeous summer sun. Trouble is you’re going to be shooting in the late autumn or early winter – not exactly suncream and shorts weather.

Things didn’t bode well when we headed off to Cornwall, our chosen location, for a recce. Cold, windy and overcast…not a great start. That said the properties we found were absolutely stunning (as all cottages4you cottages are!). Even better the owners were only too happy to be involved. Things were moving along nicely. And then, as soon as the shoot began, something miraculous happened…

The shoot… hello sunshine!

After a gloomy start, suddenly we had sunshine. Loads of it. Proper shorts-and-t-shirts-not-a-cloud-sky type sun…in the middle of October. Not only that, this mini heatwave lasted for the entire duration of the shoot! At times it felt like we were on a fun family holiday.

We started at St. Michael’s Mount and got drenched splashing our way across the causeway. Then it was off to the spectacular Minack Theatre, where our Junior Art Director, Dean Spicer, took a bow dressed up as a bona fide thespian. Finally we headed to Shark Fin where we learnt why people say you should never work with animals – our canine actor being only too keen to wander off set every time the director called ‘action!’

Day 2 we filmed horse riders and a barbecue at Trevio farmhouse, whilst our Managing Director, Julian, somehow managed to electrocute his (rather sunburnt) head – you couldn’t make it up! Then our final stop was at a beautiful old steam train station. It was like travelling back in time 100 years or so, with steam billowing out across the platform.

We had some absolutely brilliant shots in the can, but our work had only just begun. Next up was a studio session… back to Manchester!

A fridge full of trinkets, and very strong steadycam man

Souvenirs seem like such small little things. But when you think about it, they play a really important part in the holiday experience. They’re what we take home, along with the memories, and act as a constant reminder of the good times we’ve had – and the places we’ve been.

With that in mind we had decided to make the kind of trinkets you pick up on English holidays a really integral part of the ad. We collected literally hundreds; badges, magnets, miniature statues, sew-on patches, postcards…anything we could lay our hands on. And we scattered them across a purpose-built room set, to give the impression of a well-travelled family.

Shooting it was by no means easy, and we are indebted to our Steadycam man. To create the gently paced shot we required, whilst still managing to capture everything we wanted to see on screen takes a lot of precision – and it probably didn’t do his back much good either! Still, he did it, we got what we wanted and the shoot was over. That’s a wrap as they say!

Editing, more editing and the big reveal

Once everything was in the can we had to let the post-production guys weave their magic. The footage was painstakingly graded to ensure the colours were just right. Special effects were added to bring the picture frames and trinkets to life. Then we had a voiceover to record, music to compose and sound effects to produce. Phew! It was a lot to do but when we finally saw the finished article it was well worth it.

We want to give a big thank-you to everyone at The Mob Films, Chris Gaffey our brilliant director, Kate and Tim from VisitEngland, Laura, Nick, Suzanne and Dee from the Hoseasons Group and everyone involved in making this project such a huge success.

By the time you read this, our ad will have been on air for a few days. You can have a look at it in all its glory below. And hopefully you’ll be inspired to book a beautiful cottage break in England next time you go on holiday – I know I will.