SWA Kicks Off Mars Ad Campaign
10 October 2011
When Mars needed to slash the build time for a community sports pavilion from 26 weeks to 10 to fit tight advert filming schedules, agents for the global confectionary giant turned to Steve Wells Associates to make sure the project ran smoothly and on time.
It was SWA's close relationship with the FA that prompted Mars' advertising agents to contact managing director Steve Wells with the unusual request, as he explains.
"Mars - sponsors of England Football - contacted the FA to ask if they knew of any schemes which were almost ready to go so that they could film construction for one of their advertising campaigns.
"The FA gave Mars details of five or six schemes, one of which was the sports pavilion in Carperby, a rural village of 240 people in North Yorkshire. I have a good relationship with the FA, so when they called and asked if I'd go to site and meet the ad agency, I was happy to do so."
So in late September 2010 Steve met the Mars ad executives and the team behind the Carperby pavilion to talk them through a building project and to answer their questions.
"I knew as soon as I saw the plans that they were looking at a six month build," says Steve. "The advertising team had lots of questions about the building process. I didn't know at the time, but they were trying to work out a storyboard."
A week or so later, Steve got a call from the ad agency, Octagon. They'd fallen in love with the Carperby site and wanted it to feature in their latest campaign. The only problem was they had to speed up the build time to fit their tight schedules – from 26 weeks to 10!
"Mars had bought TV airtime from the beginning of February 2011, so all filming had to be finished by the first week in January," Steve says. "Cutting the building time by more than half would have been difficult at the best of times, but in the middle of winter in an area known for its adverse weather – it was never going to be easy."
But Mars was determined that Carperby was their site, and Steve was asked to manage the project through to completion. "We like a challenge," said Steve, and a hasty meeting was arranged on site with the contractor.
The first task was to work out how to squeeze the build time by 16 weeks. Scott Stephenson, the building contractor, told Steve that getting materials, labour and service connections wouldn't be an issue, but the showstopper would be the weather. "When you're building in Wensleydale in the middle of winter you're at the mercy of the elements," said Scott who lives in Carperby.
Steve suggested that construction could take place inside a large 'scaffold tent' which, along with space heaters and floodlights, meant that building could continue whatever the weather.
More plans for the pavilion had to be drawn up and, with eight weeks left, work started in earnest; but things were about to get worse. "Gale force winds blew out the first section of wall that was built and then I got phone call from the building inspector saying the site was a radon hotspot," says Steve.
"Radon's a naturally occurring gas which normally escapes harmlessly into the air, but if you're building over it, you need a special barrier under the foundations - more expense and more delays."
Eventually, with the building work well underway, Steve began the delicate task of acting as intermediary between the local team who were building the pavilion and the advertising and film crews who were to turn it all into a national TV advertisement for Mars.
"The producer and his team had clear ideas, with detailed storyboards of the scenes they needed to shoot," says Steve. "And it's true to say that on the first day of filming the guys laying the blocks had enough to contend with without the attentions of a 40 strong film crew."
The scaffold tent was now ready to be delivered to site and took a week to erect. "The day after the last tarpaulins were lashed to the tent, the snow fell … and fell and fell," said Steve. But despite the worst December weather on record and temperatures outside the tent regularly plummeting to minus 20, the pavilion construction continued apace.
But the weather had one more shot at derailing the project. With just over a week to go Steve got a call to say the concrete ordered to screed the floor – the final part of the build before decoration – wouldn't be arriving because the concrete plant had frozen.
"It was the 22nd December and we had no floor," says Steve. "But, with some frantic phoning round, we found a plant that was still operating. The floor was down by Christmas Eve."
And into the New Year, and on to the last of the six filming days to conclude the advert which followed Mars' time-honoured strap-line of 'work, rest and play'.
The focus of the advert was to show the building of the pavilion, with the villagers getting involved and everyone pulling together. The final scenes were to feature a football match with the players running onto the pitch from the completed pavilion and starring Stoke City and England star Peter Crouch. But other than managing the build programme and making sure the shots for the storyboard were ready for filming days, the producer had another role in mind for Steve.
"The storyboard showed a foreman blowing a whistle at the start of the ad calling the villagers 'to arms' to start work on the pavilion; and then that foreman becoming the ref at the end of the advert, blowing the whistle again to start the football match. The producer asked me whether I'd play that part," says Steve, "which, when you're up to your knees in snow and mud, didn't seem too big a deal at the time."
So, early in January, Peter Crouch arrived in Carperby by helicopter and the final scenes were shot. And from 10 weeks' work, six full filming days, and around 30 hours of film 'in the can', a 30 second ad was born.
"My most memorable moment was on 27 November the day after the scaffold tent was completed and the snow fell. With the worst that the weather could throw at us, my hat goes off to Scott Stephenson and his team whose Herculean efforts saw this project home.
"This was a fantastic project and not the kind we tackle every day," admits Steve. "I am director of a company that, among other things, designs and develops sports facilities. I knew a fair bit about the construction industry but knew little about producing adverts and filming. I knew even less about refereeing. This has been a tremendous experience and I have made some real friends on the way. What a journey.
"But in the end, it was no different to any other scheme. We put people and resources together to bring a project home on time and on budget … just another day's work really."
For more videos and information on the Mars ad campaign, visit www.marsbar.comMake Sport Happen in your School