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Hidden talents: Inside Sense’s Production Team

Although very much acting behind the scenes, the contribution Sense’s Production Team makes to campaign success cannot be underestimated. Production Director Ben Quarrell and his team’s influence permeates throughout each project.

“We’re involved from the very beginning to check that initial experiential concepts are feasible, affordable and environmentally sound, working closely with the creative team to make sure whatever we’re proposing can be practically executed in the real world and will engage with the target consumer,” Ben explains. “We then continually liaise with the account management team to ensure what is finally delivered is of the requisite standard, does the creative concept justice, and meets the demands of the client’s marketing strategy.”

This involves specifying and sourcing the most appropriate, sustainable, highest quality, best value materials and products for each campaign from a raft of carefully chosen preferred suppliers. “All our suppliers adhere to our own stringent quality and sustainability standards. Each also has their own idiosyncrasies and strengths, and it’s important to ensure the right ones are selected to create the most engaging campaign possible,” says Ben.

From the creative team’s designs, which develop from initial black-and-white sketches through to coloured drawings and, frequently these days, 3D renders, the Production Department works with its suppliers to create the necessary detailed technical plans. These need to be highly accurate with no room for error to avoid problems during the build phase and ensure each brand experience performs as agreed with the client.

The live nature of experiential campaigns means stringent health and safety is paramount to protect the general public and Sense’s team on the ground, and this comes under the production remit. “We write all the health and safety documentation for our projects and ensure that our campaigns adhere to all relevant regulations,” says Ben.

There is no typical day for the Sense Production Team, with variety being the norm. “That’s why I love the job,” says Ben. “On any one day we can be working across numerous campaigns. We could be in a campaign kick-off meeting working out deadlines, finalising budgets, etc. On the same day we could be costing up a pitch, making the final preparations before a campaign goes live, sharing technical details of another that need to be signed off, or working with the creative team on a concept.”

The Production Team also needs to be on the ground when a campaign launches to monitor the brand experience insights and ensure every technical element functions as it should. “This is really exciting,” says Ben. “It’s great when something you’ve been working on for weeks or sometimes months comes to life and you see just how much people are enjoying the interaction. Exactly how many of us are there depends on the size of the campaign. We often have several running at once, and I’ll be managing some projects myself as well as guiding the team on others. There’s certainly never a dull moment.”

So what are the most exciting campaigns Ben’s worked on recently?

“With experiential increasingly becoming a key component of campaigns and our constant push to create more engaging experiences, our activations are becoming increasingly complex and sophisticated taking the Production Team to new heights,” he answers. “Two campaigns spring to mind that have really pushed the boundaries.   

“First is the Coors Light Ice Cave campaign, where we brought the TV ad featuring Jean Claude Van Damme to life in the real world. We had to chill down and modify a touring structure to zero degrees and make it look like and feel like an ice cave with a night club inside, then tour it across five locations over two years. It was essentially a standalone live event. Everything from licensing with the council through to managing the technical immersive elements of the ice cave experience needed to be taken care of.”

Ben’s second choice is the current SEA LIFE interactive brand activation campaign that Sense designed and is running globally for the aquarium brand.

“The complexity of this lies not just in the interactive technology that’s being used, but in the detailed product design required to create a standalone attraction that isn’t manned and that children need to engage with,” he explains. “This could be getting them to test their strength as a crab or sucking up food like a seahorse. So there are the complexities of the various games, but also the technical and language issues of creating something that would work across every site in the world.”

In some instances Ben’s team were working across 12 languages, and he says it’s certainly been one of the most challenging projects he’s ever worked on.

“The great news is that it’s going well,” he says. “Thanks in no small part to the in-depth planning process that we worked with the whole Sense team to deliver. We’ve had some great feedback about how interactive it is, how much visitors are enjoying the experience, and how well it’s working for the client. It’s so rewarding when you put smiles on both clients’ and visitors’ faces!”