Behind the Work in association withThe Immortal Awards

Your Shot: Capturing the Spirit of Camden

London, UK
Sir John Hegarty, Sarah Marcon and Simon Orpin on how Camden Brewery’s first TV campaign came together
Last Friday night, during the first episode of the new series of Cold Feet, Camden Town Brewery made their TV advertising debut. And what a first foray into broadcast. Thanks to a unique partnership with media agency Electric Glue, the whole first ad break in the programme was taken up by the North London beer brand. First, with its new two-minute film about the soul of Camden, then followed by three of the campaign’s four shorter character pieces that brilliantly encapsulate the beer’s rebellious, unique vibe. It was a solid chunk of beer advertising that no doubt captured viewers' attention.

Intrigued, LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with Sir John Hegarty, Creative Director at The Garage Soho, Sarah Marcon, Executive Producer at Royle Productions, and Simon Orpin, CEO at Electric Glue, to get the complete 360-degree low-down on the campaign, from creative, production and media perspectives.

LBB> This isn’t your average beer campaign. What was the creative starting point for the idea?

Sir John Hegarty> Capturing the spirit of Camden was the foundation of the idea. Camden is one of the most iconic districts of London with an amazing history and pedigree. Independent, irreverent, challenging and yet inclusive.

LBB> What was the casting process for the 30-second films? Did you have clear thoughts on who you were looking for and the messages they'd deliver?

SJH> We didn't want conventional beer ads with moody millennials posing and pretending to be cool. We wanted to be different yet relevant to the spirit of Camden. We also wanted ideas that challenged conventional beer ads. And therefore characters who did just that. We wanted to wake up our audience and make them think as well as smile. To Raise Hells.

LBB> Why did you decide on Ashley Zhangazha for the two-minute spot? He makes the script so inspiring and proud.

SJH> It was a stroke of luck we got Ashley. We read a review of a production he was in at the Lyric in Hammersmith and immediately got in touch to see if he would present the spot. He loved the script and obviously said yes. We didn't at that moment know he was born in Camden. That was also a stroke of luck.

LBB> How did you work with the RNIB to make sure you got the tone right?

Sarah Marcon> Getting this spot tonally right was paramount from the outset, as such we had an open dialogue with the RNIB and with our artists Anna, throughout the production process.

LBB> What were your decisions behind keeping the set so stripped back?

SM> We really wanted the characters and words to be the focal point of these spots and the viewers to be drawn into the performances.  

LBB> What was your process for guiding the performances, given that they needed to be so authentic?

SM> All of the artists were themselves on set, no hammy deliveries and no one was over directed. Just each person delivering their lines in a way that felt natural and comfortable to them.

The drag queen, she dressed herself - including hair and makeup. And Riff, the guitarist, he’s a performer, an artist, so that’s is what he does. The brief was to play the guitar with the bottle. He freestyled. He literally riffed. So we had loads of different options, which was really interesting to watch. We also needed to make sure we kept his style because it’s him, that’s part of it. All of the artists had their own incredible and unique style, which harks back to the brand, which is all about individuality.

LBB> It’s the brand’s first foray into TV advertising and you managed to take over a whole ad break in the first episode of Cold Feet's new series. What was behind that decision?

Simon Orpin> We have a strong belief that in the industry these days, creative and media have almost become divorced. We fundamentally believe that creative and media should be planned at the same time. And media is there to liberate that creativity, not just deliver a set of efficiency numbers. The creative is so strong, we really wanted to make an announcement with the work on Friday night. Viewers can work out that there’s something going on that they haven’t seen before, which immediately starts a conversation about it.

The ad break takeover was a consequence of our partnership with ITV. Our approach is different to the rest of the market. We partner with one of the three broadcasters 100%. In the case of Hells, we’ve been speaking to ITV for a while. We’ve got other big partnerships with them. But they were really into seeing how they could go beyond the norm and support new brands and brands that wanted to use TV in an innovative way to support it as much as they could to create some compelling case stories about the medium itself. 

Nothing about it was traditional, from what we managed to do for the budget we had. With this first budget the traditional view would be not to do TV because you can’t afford to, but we were able to do it through the partnership in a really decent way. We had the firm belief that with the creative that John was doing - it’s all so visual - broadcast was the place to put it.

LBB> Media-wise, Cold Feet isn’t the most stereotypical show to pair with beer advertising. What was the creative idea behind the media strategy?

SO> We’re putting the single character ads across all the big shows. In some ways it’s shows that you wouldn’t expect to see beer advertising in. We have a view that beer advertising has become a bit stereotypical and boring. The creative here was anything but and it’s done in a very different way, but we also didn’t want a media schedule that’s just buying young men programming. The gender split of people that drink Hells is already more balanced. Most lagers are far more male. But also we wanted to make it the most popular brand, so took a popular view on programmes we were buying into, not just 18- to 34-year-old men. Hence Cold Feet, Coronation Street, the new drama, Liar. And that’s supplemented by all the outdoor at commuter times, the digital stuff, which is a broader target, the VOD and the social stuff. It’s predominantly led by the broadcast.

We had to be brave in some of the decision making in terms of thinking big. Let’s try to make something really extraordinary and something you don’t see other brands doing. That’s not trying to be different for different’s sake. It was to stand out. The other thing about John’s creative thought, ‘Raise Hells’ - it’s a call to action. We wanted to start a movement. And I think that the use of TV and how we’ve done it helps encourage people to be part of that movement.
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