Where to start? Well, we’ve just had one of the maddest weeks in our careers and one of the most surreal 24 hours too. But although our latest production is, in many ways, a classic example of agile marketing in the social media age, it was actually 17 years in the making. So as one Twitter wag pointed out last night, if there’s an award out there for “longest gestation period of an idea”, we’re entering!
The story of 'Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank' goes all the way back to 1997 and an episode of I’m Alan Partridge. In that show, the fictional TV has-been (played by Steve Coogan) tries to persuade a top BBC executive (played by David Schneider) to commission a succession of ridiculous concepts, culminating in his desperate suggestion of 'Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank'.
The BBC exec remains unmoved, but in the intervening years, the notion of making the show has become a long-running joke, both in social media and offline. Eubank himself finally commented on the phenomenon last week, after repeated requests from the public, and the story not only generated a huge buzz online but was picked up by the national media.
Now, at this point, it would have been easy to have had a quiet chuckle to ourselves and move on. But given that one of our clients is Hostelworld (the world’s biggest hostel booking site), we saw an opportunity. Not just to join in the conversation with a tweet of our own – that would have been far too easy. Instead, we saw the chance to actually make the show for real.
Then came the difficult bit. We needed to contact Chris and see if he was willing and able (luckily, despite his bemusement, he was). We needed to get Hostelworld on board too (yippee – they loved it). We needed a director and production company that could make it happen (step forwards, Kelvin Hutchins of MPH). We needed a modern, shiny hostel (the beautiful YHA in Brighton was perfect). And we needed everything to happen in a matter of days, while the story was still hot. Not easy – especially as other travel brands and media players were sniffing about in the background.
In the end though, we ended up shooting Chris on Monday, just a few days after the story had broken. It was a surreal experience. Chris turned up in his full bemonacled regalia. He danced. He sang. He offered words of philosophical wisdom. He couldn’t have been more helpful – in fact, the only challenge was distilling all his brilliance into a short edit.
We managed to have a final cut, approved by all parties, ready to be released on Wednesday night, still less than a week after the original story broke. And that’s when the fun really started. There has been an avalanche of social media support. All the major national media have picked the story up. And, most gratifyingly, all the original Partridge protagonists have tweeted it, approvingly.
Which just goes to show that good ideas are worth waiting for and fighting for. Just maybe not 'Monkey Tennis'. Not yet, anyway.
Andy Nairn is a founding partner of Lucky Generals