Anatomy of an Ad: Behind the scenes of the Prince’s Trust’s ‘Learn the Hard Way’ ad

At the end of January the Prince’s Trust launched its most “connected and impactful” ad campaign in its 40-year history to highlight the difficulties young people from challenging backgrounds face when it comes to employment. Natalie Mortimer catches up with the CHI&Partners creative directors behind the ad, as well as Paul Brown of the Prince’s Trust, to discover the thinking behind it.

The Prince’s Trust was keen to create a campaign that would encourage employers to take a different view of young people from troubled backgrounds and help them enter the workplace, Paul Brown, director of marketing and communications at the charity tells The Drum.

“We wanted to redouble our efforts to make sure we can reach out to young people and crucially connect with the business community who provide so much support for the Prince’s Trust but also provide employment opportunities for young people,” he says.

“What we wanted to do was to paint a picture of the difficult issues that young people face in their lives and the courage and determination they have to succeed against the odds.”

The brief, then, for creative agency CHI&Partners was to help the Prince’s Trust connect in an emotive way with both the general public and the business community. Creative directors Danny Hunt and Gavin Torrance interpreted this as communicating the “potential of youth” and came up with the idea of tapping into the buzzwords that people use on their CV and conveying them through the attributes young people from troubled upbringings have acquired.

“We started looking at the CV terminology and the LinkedIn aspect of it and we thought it was a really good insight that hadn’t been touched before,” explains Hunt.

“It’s also an insight that’s full of jargon and rubbish; overused and full of buzzwords like hard worker and team player… So we grabbed that terminology and we wanted to give it real meaning and depth and that’s where we got our creative from and our idea of doing a real CV.”

The script for the campaign was written in the style of a personal statement and shows a series of young people informing potential employers about how their backgrounds have allowed them to become skilful and driven adults. Situations include a ‘self-motivated’ young boy getting himself ready for school as his mother lies drunk on the couch, and a ‘fast-learning’ girl who knows the best places in her room to hide from her father.

The Prince’s Trust “cried” when they received the script, says Hunt, who describes the situation as “lovely but a bit weird,” having worked with large, global, brands which are generally less appreciative.

The filming lasted for two days in the Thames Meade area of London and one aspect that production company Academy Films and the Prince’s Trust discussed at length was choosing the right young actors to appear in the film.

“The casting is one of the major things we spoke about really early on – we had to cast it right,” says Seb Edwards, director at Academy Films. “Most of the people we cast were from community acting groups; they weren't kids with agents. I think as a result of that they had something honest about them. They had something genuine in their demeanour. If there is one thing I like about the film, it’s the cast.”

One tricky by-product of the fact the work was created pro-bono for the charity was the logistical challenge of organising the production team and Edwards.

“It was really painful,” jokes Hunt. “Obviously it’s a charity so there was no money and there’s no time. You can’t push for people’s availability like you can when you’re paying, but we were really lucky that we had an excellent director who instantly got on board with the idea and the project… I think we pulled in every favour that Gav and I have ever been owed!”

Edwards echoes this sentiment, adding that despite the logistical difficulties and budget restraints it was the team’s belief in the project that pushed it through.

“We were working with limited means, but because a lot of people believed in the project, they gave their time, energy and commitment without payment. So although it was a challenge, it was one of the most positive things about it”.

Another facet of the campaign was a LinkedIn stunt which involved creating a profile for a girl listing her workplace as 'homeless'. The 'candidate' then approached employers to ask for online endorsements of her employable skills. Employers who engaged with the profile were offered the chance to view a video CV and transferred to the film on YouTube.

“The thing that really engaged us,” says Brown of the finished campaign, “Was that despite the young people facing really difficult circumstances, their resilience and determination to succeed shone through, and the link to employment was at the heart of it.”

Credits

Agency: CHI&Partners

Executive creative director: Jonathan Burley

Creative director: Danny Hunt & Gavin Torrance

Creatives: William Cottam (art director) and James Crosby (copywriter)

Planners: Sarah Clark and Hannah White

Producer: David Jones

Production assistant: Francesca Roberts

Business director: Alex Best

Account director: Sarah Carolin

Production company: Academy Films

Director: Seb Edwards

Executive producer: Lizie Gower

Producer: Dominic Thomas

Production manager: Tom Cartwright and Luke Goodrum

Director of photography: Patrick Duroux

Editor: Sam Rice-Edwards at The Assembly Rooms

Audio: Wave Studios

VFX: MPC

VFX producer: Phil Whalley

VFX supervisor: Dan Sanders

Colourist: Jean-Clément Soret

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