24 February 2017

Before the filming took place a lot of work went into making sure the advert would reflect what your Islands expedition would be like. Below we let you in on the thoughts and process of pulling together an exciting 30 second TV advert.

From the very beginning of the process we had a strong sense that Islands was all about our visitors going on a journey of discovery and exploration and becoming real life conservationists.

So we wanted make sure the advert reflected this; putting visitors at the centre of the ad and talking about the extraordinary discoveries that they would make. We already had an idea of some of the habitats and conservation challenges that Islands would include. This provided our inspiration when creating the storyboard.

We worked with agency True North to develop the Islands creative. Sarah Dutton senior designer at True North tells us more:

The concept we created for the advert was based around the idea of showing ordinary people enjoying truly extraordinary experiences, from exploring the forests of Sulawesi to tracking tigers in Sumatra. We wanted to put visitors right at the heart of the Islands experience, capturing the immersive nature of the attraction itself.

Believability was key, we wanted the viewer to get a real sense that they were on this journey with us – which was easier said than done when Islands was a year away from completion when shooting the advert.

This made finding the right locations to use within Chester Zoo itself very challenging but with the help of our TV production team at 422, our director Richard Oliver and the team at Chester Zoo we were able to use careful propping, planting, lighting and camera work in order to create the illusion of three unique, authentic South East Asian island habitats right in the heart of the zoo.

Creating the Islands campaign and working with the team at Chester Zoo was a truly enjoyable experience in itself, we just can’t wait to visit the real thing now!

Next on the list was finding the right location to film the advert. Filming took place in June 2014 when Islands was a building site. We did consider filming off site, in a location like the Eden project or Kew gardens but then we realised that we had the perfect locations here within the zoo grounds.

We took the creative team on a tour of the zoo – to our tropical houses and our award winning gardens – our amazing gardening teams found plants that would reflect those that could be found on Islands. From there our education manager created stories and provided us with some of the props that will bring to life the experience of being an explorer on Islands.

Molly Parker. Leads the search for the Sumatran tiger…

…was filmed in our Glorious Grasses garden.

The bamboo perfectly represents the dense bamboo forests on Sumatra. The character Molly is searching for tiger tracks in the mud which is where we used a cast from a real tiger print and imprinted the footprint in a specially prepared path.

Peter Jones. Rainforest Explorer…

We were looking to recreate the lush and humid conditions that visitors will find in Monsoon Forest. We thought that our Butterfly House represented that lush tropical environment best. We used hosepipes to ensure that there was lots of moisture in the air (we couldn’t use standard mist machines because we didn’t want to upset the butterflies!). We filmed this part early in the morning as we had to install camera tracks and lots of special lighting equipment and needed to get the filming done and the Butterfly House reopened in time for when the zoo opened to the public at 10am.

Jackie Thomas. Lover of island hopping…

Even the shop that will be in Islands is themed completely around South East Asia, so to reflect this we created a market stall. We used an existing hut within the Tropical Realm and dressed it with fabrics and other authentic objects that we’d sourced from South East Asia.

Considering we were just producing a 30 second advert there were plenty of people involved, including three members of the Chester Zoo marketing team; keepers who looked after the animals in the locations we filmed in; two members of our discovery & learning team who supported us with the authenticity of the theming; our maintenance team who helped us to cordon off areas and create paths and any other technical support; three members of the creative team (True North); the director, cameramen, photographer, and runners, and wardrobe and makeup assistants.

Post production

Once the advert was edited into a 30 second clip using the three actors and locations captured during the day of filming we then needed to find the perfect person to be the voice of the ad.

We needed to find someone who would sum up the qualities of an intrepid explorer and Helen Skelton was an obvious choice for us. Helen was perfect – a really nice local lady who had completed a number of adventures and had all of the qualities that we were looking for. It was also lovely to know that she was really excited to hear about Islands and to learn more about our overseas conservation work.