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Anatomy of an Ad: How Publicis London and Circle came together to fight for the 'Jobless Generation'

Youth employment agency Circle has set out to highlight the negative stereotypes young people face every day and to demonstrate that, contrary to popular belief, they want to work. With a little help from Publicis London, Circle secretly filmed young candidates being interviewed by a fake careers advisor who offered some rather unorthodox means of getting ahead.

Brought together over a garden picnic 18 months ago, Publicis London creative director, Sue Higgs, and Circle founder, Turly Humphreys, set out to make an impact and get the charity’s name and work out there.

“When I heard about the work Turly and Circle were doing, I absolutely adored it and wanted to get involved," explains Higgs. "I always knew we needed to make a splash, but being a charity client money is tight, so we’ve tried to make the biggest impact for them for the least amount of money."

With traditional methods ruled out through cost, Publicis and Circle turned to the internet to tackle the problem of youth unemployment “head on” with a film – The Jobless Generation – that draws attention to the stereotypes young people looking for work come up against every day.

“When Sue first came to us with the idea, I couldn’t see it to start with,” Humphreys admits, adding that her trust in Higgs' professionalism and judgement allayed any fears. “We might be a pro bono client but Publicis has never undersold us in any way. I may not have totally understood the brief but I know what the problem is and I was happy it was going to get it out there."

Using hidden cameras, Publicis filmed young candidates’ reactions to the prejudice they encounter with an actor posing as a careers advisor offering unorthodox advice – from hotwiring cars to getting pregnant, dealing drugs or just signing on and watching Cash in the Attic.

Filmed over the course of one day, Higgs says around two to three months of “meticulous planning” went into the shoot, while it was key the young people were treated respectfully.

“At every junction we had to be mindful of not ever selling these kids short, not ever stitching them up or doing anything that could be perceived as disrespectful,” she says.

“The actual shoot itself may have just taken a day but we had to be truthful and real. We played out every scenario, and it’s testament to everyone’s hard work and the planning because the film is 100 per cent real.

"All of the kids who were filmed were happy to sign a release once they knew what it was for because the process was handled very carefully and everyone was treated with respect.”

Humphreys confirms those shown in the film are all “real kids who work with Circle” and not actors, lured in to meet what they thought was “an amazing careers advisor with a great success rate”.

“It had to be a really collaborative process between us and Publicis,” says Humphreys. “We’d asked all these kids to come down for the day but the young people couldn’t know anything about we were planning to do. On the day we had two premises, the one you see in the film and another next door which was where we had a psychotherapist who talked them down and helped them to understand what had just happened. It was also at that point we took the additional CV videos.”

With “just a very faint script” to start off with, Higgs credits the stand-up comedian hired to pose as Circle’s ‘job guru’ for taking a lot of stress and worry out of the day. “He was so intuitive and instinctive with the reactions he was getting,” she says. “He knew how to push a button without going too far and becoming hurtful.”

When asked if there was ever any worry on their part that those filmed would react negatively or lash out to the inappropriate career suggestions, both Higgs and Humphreys admit it was taken into consideration.

“We were worried if they’d feel we’d duped them as we were leading them into a situation purporting to be one thing but it was something else,” admits Higgs. “It was more a social experiment than an advert and that’s why we had to cover for every single negative outcome.”

“It just shows their patience,” adds Humphreys. “They all took it in their stride, but it’s what they’re up against every day and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere unfortunately.”

With the filming complete, Higgs says the amount of footage taken from then hidden cameras on the day led to “quite a lengthy edit process” where the film finally came to life in front of their eyes.

“We always knew we were on to something creatively,” she says. “But with just a few lines and no storyboards, as we weren’t shooting frame for frame, all we could do was hope and pray. It wasn’t until the edit came together that we really thought, yes, we are onto something special.”

In addition to the hidden camera film, Circle asked the interviewees to make a video CV as part of a larger #joblessgeneration campaign, backed by Dragons' Den star Deborah Meaden, and so far six job interviews have been offered, with with one interviewee landing her dream job with the Halifax.

“What I think is really interesting is these kids have realistic hopes and dreams. They don’t want to be David Beckham. It’s not the 'X Factor generation' the press would have you believe, adds Higgs.

“They’re not asking for the world, just a chance, and I’m really humbled and pleased people are getting behind the film. With the general election, it couldn’t have come at a better time and I’m proud to be part of the conversation.”

Client: Turly Humphreys, Circle Sports

Agency: Publicis UK

Executive creative director: Andy Bird

Creative director: Sue Higgs

Art director: Jolyon Finch

Copywriter: Steve Moss

Agency producer: Alex Cowley

Account management:Troy Parsonson / Toby Brown

Planning: Phillip Bott

Director:Ben Liam Jones

Production Company:Mustard Films

Producer: Nick Papworth

DOP: Fede Alfonzo

Editor: Charlie Moreton at Work

Sound design: Ben Gulvin at 750

Grade: Jon Leese-Pomfret at Raised By Wolves

Post: George Rockliffe at Unit

Web design: Ryan Wylie / Morgan Coyle

Technology: David Clarke / Nuala Monaghan

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