Director’s Blog – A decade of ads

April 1

Our journey started in Matt’s kitchen in Rochdale.  The three of us were all excited about the future but carefully hiding our anxieties as we ventured into business together. We knew how to make adverts and video, but running a business? Not a clue.

Our first job was for Virgin Bingo, an animated TV advert put together remotely with the soundtrack being recorded in the living room. It had better acoustics than in the kitchen. The ad was completed in between deep discussions about logos, brand names and setting up meetings with accountants and advisors.

It was within 6 weeks that we pitched up our office in a small metal container at the new build and still unfinished Sharp Project in Manchester. After setting up some soft furnishings and desks we set about finding business and making a real go of it.

In that first year, we worked incredibly hard, pulled all-nighters regularly and ate far too many McDonalds.

A key moment of that first year of business was winning a test advert for Vistaprint. The concept was called ‘DJ Dex’ and as he roared on to screens across the UK the results came in for the client. We had our first big success story and in Vistaprint, we had a big client who we would go on to create ads for over the next two years.

At the end of our first financial year, two major changes happen in the business. We said farewell to co-founder Tim Follin (The F) and said hello to our new office, with windows and air conditioning. Still very much in the Sharp Project but better placed to face some even bigger challenges.

Moving forward we added some more big ads to our reel. We’re still proud of our Virgin Bingo advert that turned the online game into a factory of fun. The advert was our best at that point and brought significant results for the client.

As the workload got bigger so did the team as we recruited Rachel, Joe and then Amber. Other staff came and went over the years but we’ve been lucky enough to retain our core team for most of our 10 years. Our aim was always to make ABF a great place to work.

Another highlight advert came in the form of a group of Orang-utans dancing to the music of Chesney Hawkes. Shot entirely on green screen, with animatronics, motion control, CG staging and the one and only himself, the ad for Mymate was a hit and is unforgettable to this day.

MandmDirect was another fantastic client we’ve worked for, really letting us use our creativity and production skills as we produced spot ads and sponsorship campaigns for the brand. One key piece of work for the brand was filming a large scale production in Portugal. A challenge we very much loved and another box ticked for the ABF team.

In more recent times the team grew further to cope with the demand from new TV advertisers. John, Nicole, James, Mike and Brad all added depth to our business development, creative nouse and production capabilities. This was key as we entered a two-year spell working with Soak, an online bathroom retailer with big plans to grow using TV.

Our ‘Elephant in the Room’ advert for Soak is probably our most recognisable work. The CG elephant was built in house by the team and was truly wonderful. It took over 6 months to get that advert on air, but it was worth the efforts of everyone.

Today, ABF still happily reside in the Sharp Project, as their oldest tenant. Seb and Patrick joined us last year and Hope this year. ABF has grown in size over the last ten years but importantly we’ve all grown as people. Whilst we are always learning one thing remains the same and that’s our love and passion for TV advertising and video creation.