Behind the scenes: The big idea

How exactly is a TV advert made? From 5am wakeup calls to late-night rapid rides, Helen Horner, Head of Brand, exclusively reveals how she turned Center Parcs’ new campaign from a vision into a reality

Center Parcs’ takeover of a tunnel at Waterloo station
Center Parcs’ takeover of a tunnel at Waterloo station
The crew get to work during a pottery session
The crew get to work during a pottery session
Ready, aim, shoot!
Ready, aim, shoot!
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Center Parcs’ takeover of a tunnel at Waterloo station
Center Parcs’ takeover of a tunnel at Waterloo station
The crew get to work during a pottery session
The crew get to work during a pottery session
Ready, aim, shoot!
Ready, aim, shoot!

Tell us a bit about your role at Center Parcs
As Head of Brand at Center Parcs it’s my job to develop creative that brings our brand to life. I have been in the business for the past 12 years and every time we produce a new TV ad the process is no less exciting or challenging.

This time, though, we are launching Woburn as part of the Center Parcs family, so we have been able to develop where we use our creative in a wider range of ways. For example, in September we did a complete takeover of a pedestrian tunnel at Waterloo station.

What does it take to make a TV advert?
Where do I start? Firstly there is research. It always underpins what we do; it would be arrogant of us to assume that we know what everyone thinks about our brand and the only true way to find out is to talk to people.

We began by speaking to guests and staff at all the Villages to drill down into what makes Center Parcs special. There were some really lovely stories that both guests and staff shared with us, from housekeepers who lay out teddies having picnics to family traditions that have began and grown in our Villages. This enabled us to be clear about what the brand strengths are which allowed us to then embark on the creative process.

“It would be arrogant of us to assume that we know what everyone thinks about our brand and the only true way to find out is to talk to people”

We explored several different ideas and put them into research to see if we were heading in the right direction. We held focus groups in places such as London, Leicester, Manchester, Birmingham and Sunbury, Surrey to make sure the message we were trying to convey appealed across the country. Once we had found the right idea – the one that worked best with both existing guests and considerers – we knew we were on the right track.

Why did you decide to choose real families for the advert?
I was really keen this time to use real Center Parcs guests. We receive a lot of feedback from guests that tell us how special Center Parcs is in bringing together families in a natural setting, which is increasingly difficult in the busy lives we all lead today. Because of this we felt genuine warmth between the families on screen was vital.

I was pretty sure that were some confident families who would be happy in front of a camera. Even before we had a final script I sent out an email to our database to encourage guests to send in audition DVDs or USBs. We had many entries and, after watching them all several times, invited the shortlisted ones to London for a casting. We held this in the heart of Soho and I imagine it would have been pretty daunting for them, but we needed to see how relaxed they were in front of the camera and also how they were together as a family unit. We wanted to get a good mix to show the many different types of family groups and ages that can enjoy a Center Parcs break. To be honest, it was a difficult choice as all of them would have been great but we had to choose our six.

How was the advert filmed?
We filmed over the first two weeks in September and were incredibly lucky with the weather. The first week saw us have bright sunshine everyday which was amazing.

Everyone arrived on the Monday and settled in to get their bearings. This was vitally important for the film crew as some of them hadn’t been to a Center Parcs before, but they soon grew into life on the Village, cycling everywhere and even firing up barbecues in the evenings. When we finished early enough you could even find them whizzing down the rapids. Unfortunately we didn’t catch that on film!

“The main challenge is to develop an advert that not only works to encourage potential new guests to visit us, but also to make our existing guests proud”

The families were fantastic. On the first and second Monday we held a reception in Rajinda Pradesh so they could meet the other families and the key members of the crew, to make them as relaxed as possible. Of course, after a bite to eat and few games of bowling everyone was chilled and ready for action the following day.

What were the challenges?
The main challenge is to develop an advert that not only works to encourage potential new guests to visit us, but also to make our existing guests proud.

Then there is the challenge of logistics. To film while the Village is full of guests and minimise the disruption is a big obstacle; we try to do most of the vehicle movements around the perimeter road outside the Village to make sure we aren’t moving large equipment around while guests are trying to enjoy their break. We get tremendous support from the Villages whenever we’re filming or doing photo shoots. Their co-operation during the making of the TV advert – while running a Village full of guests – was invaluable.

We also set up a catering truck and a dining bus in the goods yard as we didn’t want to create issues or slow down the service in restaurants for guests. Many of our wake-up calls were at 5am to make sure we were ready to film at sunrise, which allowed us to fit our gruelling schedule in and use facilities before our guests were up.

Sum up your experience in three words
Labour of love.

Seen our advert? Follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #myfamilymytime

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  • Clare falconer

    It’s a real shame that you didn’t come to Scotland to get the views of the many guests who travel hundreds of miles to enjoy a great holiday before you made the new advert, that way the whole country’s opinions would have been taken into consideration not just those south of the border. Focus groups held in England do not cover the whole of the UK. We are disappointed with this decision as we always love to talk about our holidays at centreparcs.
    We would appreciate a reply.

    • Clare falconer

      It’s a real shame that you didn’t come to Scotland to get the views of the many guests who travel hundreds of miles to enjoy a great holiday before you made the new advert, that way the whole country’s opinions would have been taken into consideration not just those south of the border. Focus groups held in England do not cover the whole of the UK. We are disappointed with this decision as we always love to talk about our holidays at centreparcs.
      We would appreciate a reply.

    • Amy Dickson

      Hi Clare,

      Thanks for your comment. For this particular TV campaign we physically didn’t have the time to carry out focus groups in Scotland, however we certainly hope to do so in the future. We do carry out focus groups on each the Villages, particularly at Whinfell and Sherwood Forest to pick up the views of our guests from all over the UK, including Scotland, as your feedback is highly important to us.

      • Clare falconer

        Hi Amy
        Thanks for your reply.maybe we have missed the focus groups at Sherwood as we’ve certainly never come across them. We’ll look out for them when we return in October. All the best for 2014.
        The Falconers.

Amy Dickson

Post Author:
Amy Dickson

As Brand Content Manager I plan, create and curate the best articles, photos, videos and music for our channels, in particular the blog. With a degree in Journalism under my belt and many years’ experience in the big smoke as a journalist and editor, my focus is firmly on discovering the little gems hidden away in Center Parcs life, before buffing them up to make them sparkle online. From on-village events to the latest travel industry trends, I’ll be there – notepad in hand – to bring you the most entertaining and interesting stories.