It\'s 3.30pm on Friday the 13th and The Drum is standing in a small room at South Manchester Studios sporting the kind of grin usually reserved for lottery winners. There\'s a very good reason for this - also in the room, although currently of a more horizontal persuasion, is Hannah-Joy, one of 14 cast members for a TV commercial promoting a new premium drinks brand. As Friday the 13ths go, we\'d have to conclude that this one is making a lot of effort to dispel myths of misfortune and bad luck.
The Drum has been invited by Leeds-based agency Poulters to spend the day on the set of the first TV campaign for Vodkat, a new drink from Intercontinental Brands. Taking the reins today is Manchester-based production company Onward.
As with every TV ad shoot, the day begins with a lot of sitting around. The actors - 12 women and two men - are being dressed and made up ahead of their moment in front of the cameras, while the crew are busy setting up the shot. Meanwhile, The Drum and Poulters\' account director James French and creative director Dave Bell are enjoying a brew.
Poulters was appointed to handle the advertising by Intercontinental Brands earlier this year and quickly set about developing the campaign concept. The idea was to use non-professional actors and models for all of the advertising. The campaign took on the \'You\'ve got to be one to drink one\' strapline and, as such, Poulters launched a nationwide PR campaign to find the people who would become Vodkats. The agency was looking for people who embodied the \"confidence, intelligence and attitude\" - not to mention the \"feisty force to be reckoned with\" - characteristics that were deemed the trademarks of being a Vodkat. From more than 1200 hopefuls, the agency held casting sessions to discover the 14 brand advocates.
\"We realised at the very beginning of our campaign planning that using PR to mount a nationwide search for the Vodkats would create a fantastic buzz and get people talking about Vodkat, even before the advertising began,\" says French. \"The search proved a fantastic success. Thousands of wannabe Vodkats applied via the website we created, and we were finally able to whittle the applicants down to 12 girls and two boys who we felt perfectly personified the brand.\"
As we sip the tea from our polystyrene cups, carefully trying to determine an appropriate temperature at which to attempt something akin to a gulp, only a couple of the Vodkats have emerged from the dressing room. One of the two decides she ought to wear a bra, so heads back from whence she came. The other is trying to convince the team that the other outfit she tried on suited her more. It\'s fair to say this is all a bit new and exciting for the Vodkats.
As Paul Burton, Vodkat\'s joint managing director, is quick to point out, the use of non-professional models and actors is an important part of where the brand\'s values lie. \"We felt that using \'real\' models in the ad was the best way to communicate what Vodkat is really about: attitude; confident, feisty and independent individuals who don\'t follow convention. We were thinking Pussycat Dolls not Girls Aloud.\"
After a few moments thinking about the Pussycat Dolls and Girls Aloud, The Drum\'s gaze turns to the action, as the first of the Vodkats reels off lines such as: \"Cool, calm and under control,\" \"Are you looking at me? Why not?\" and \"Respect me. I do.\"
Gradually, each of the Vodkats appears from the dressing room watching their co-stars with an air of excitement ahead of their own opportunity to shine. They met for the first time today, but there\'s definitely a sense of them being in this together, each getting what could be their big break in the industry.
By asking each of the untrained Vodkats to deliver all of the lines, Poulters and Onward are attempting to identify where the strengths of each reside. \"Some will be naturals at delivering the lines and will feature in the campaign,\" says French. \"Others might be more suitable for fronting our outdoor campaign.\"
After lunch, it\'s more of the same. The production appears smooth, with a minimum of fuss, as each Vodkat delivers their lines with an assured level of confidence and an ample dose of feistiness.
After each Vodkat completes their work in front of the camera, it\'s off to the photo shoot, which is where The Drum catches up with Bell. Outdoor advertising is being run alongside the TV advertising, and at least two of the Vodkats will appear on the 48-sheet sites. As we enter the room, Roxy is finishing her shots. She\'s followed by Hannah-Joy and then Orla.
Each Vodkat provides a different pose and is given instructions to \"lean a little bit more that way\" and \"move that hand slightly to the left\" by the photographer.
In a brief respite between the Vodkats working with the camera, Bell explains the concept behind the campaign: \"We need to cut through without a large budget in a difficult sector with very strict regulations. The more obstacles that are placed in our path - and there were quite a lot of sizeable obstacles - the more creative we have to be.
\"We\'ve created a social group, a cool but cruel clique with two things in common: bags of attitude and the bottle of Vodkat. This community will continue to grow and grow as the public cries out for fame and fortune and we, Poulters and Vodkat, can give it to them. Well, the fame bit anyway.\"
The plan is to increase awareness and help get Vodkat onto supermarket shelves. Then, after an initial run, national and regional PR will be used to promote the product and the models. Poulters has also revealed plans to get the campaign on lorry sides and backs in the near future. Expect to see a lot more of the Vodkats in the coming months...
The commercial is on air now and can be viewed at www.vodkat.co.uk.