So after months and months of sharpened brand plans, painful zero-budget meetings with finance and a few unwanted interventions from the Exec, you finally get approval for the amazing TVC idea you’ve been working on with your agency. Question is – where to film it? Full Reach reflects on three popular locations for many advertisers – USA, South Africa and South East Europe. Here’s five thoughts based on our experience of shooting TV ads across all three continents:

1. Budget goes further in South Africa, but other costs might be higher than you planned.

There are many many reasons why South African’s might curse their politicians and the weak Rand, but for the established TV production houses in the region, their weak currency adds to the attraction. The fact is, South Africa can offer a range of environments, landscapes, cultures and scenes that are unrivalled for the cost of filming. Local governments know how vital the industry is for the economy and permits are often easy to obtain with the right local advice on the ground.


Below – filming Money in Safe Hands (2016) with Brave Spark on location in Johannesburg for WorldRemit.

It would be hard for any country to match the range of technical expertise at the cost and ease of filming. But its no walk in the park – the costs come in other ways. Depending on the team of client / agency being on set, its important to factor in the costs of flight tickets & hotels – or make serious choices on whom from client & agency goes on the trip. Additionally security costs are a necessary evil and can be significant. When filming in Johannesburg (despite having a thorough security detail) our crew had to evade an armed car-jacking which was very nearly a serious incident. The key is to use local people that know what they’re doing and mitigate the risks – even if those costs are on top of budget.

2. If you want bureaucracy, head to… the US?!

In Europe we’re used to light hearted criticism (and aggressive tweets from you-know-who) about the state of our decrepit socialist economies that need a dose of American capitalism. However this does not stretch to the US film industry, which is highly regulated in the US. If you’ve shot TVC’s with crews from Europe and Africa you might be surprised by the legalistic importance of doing everything within labour codes and permits from local lawmakers. Below – amazing location, professional crew – great Extra’s – but have your paperwork!

While filming in California we had one of the TV-Extra’s aggressively quote detailed clauses of contract law and tried to shake us down for on-the-spot compensation (which we, in an awfully British way, gratefully declined). If you’re filming in the US, do your paperwork, read it again, then check – because if it’s wrong, you have a very high chance of being caught out – even for a well intentioned oversight. Additionally, don’t expect US based crew to deviate from their agreed task – they won’t cover for another crew member if the necessary work falls out of their narrow remit.

Below – filming in the Mojave Desert, CA for WorldRemit’s ‘A Better Way’ (2017) with Brave Spark.

3. If you want the best choice of everything… still head to the US

For all the challenges with legal approvals, permits, bureaucracy and permissions – you will not get the same depth of talent as you can find in the US. If you’re looking for that personthat can speak Swahili and German and is also a qualified Sky Diver… they will probably be working in the US. If you’re looking for a post production company who can be on set to help create a manga-themed Armageddon environment that looks like Greenland… they’ll probably be a small agency based in California that specialises in it. The land of opportunity is also the land of absolute creativity for all things TV & media based. You get what you pay for – if you can pay, you can get absolutely anything you want. Below – Mojave Desert – CA.

4. Everyone is forgetting Croatia, but we’re not sure why?

South East Europe is one of those nondescript geographic terms that nobody outside the region quite knows what or where it is. So think about Croatia all the way through Serbia and Montenegro through to Bulgaria. Since Game of Thrones filmed in Dubrovnik, Croatia has become highly desirable for film, though many advertising agencies still overlook the region.

Below – Nevio Marasovic a local Croatian Director & Film-maker won the 2018 Best Tourism Video Award for the Croatia Tourist Board. He’s made over 150 ads for the likes of Vodafone, Carlsberg, T-Mobile, and Renault but is always bemused that western agencies overlook it. ”Our locations are unmatchable, from Mediterranean to middle European scenery in just an hour car ride. This is what makes it possible to have a visually rich video for a fraction of a budget you would spend if shooting some place else.” – Nevio.



5. Think Actors & Extras – it can sway your choice of location immensely.

WorldRemit needed a large number of multi-racial actors and extras for the TVC’s we shot. As such, filming in the US and South Africa were obvious decisions. In both countries there were deep pools of talent for a range of parts we needed featuring black, white, mixed and Asian actors – we really wanted to reflect the world! Such a range would not have been an option in SE Europe, which has a range of countries with relatively racially homogenous populations. Having said that, when shooting for Carlsberg WC 2014 & EURO 2016 commercials – Croatia was the perfect location. There was no need to fly in people from elsewhere and the profile of the talent reflected the specific needs of the consumers we were targeting. Below – 2015 ad featuring local talent for the domestic market using local agency / director / production.

And the winner is… all of them!

All three locations quite rightly have massive advantages as well as obvious limitations. Like every brand owner, the client will need to balance the script, treatments, and production level against the budget and the range of sets required to bring the vision to execution. The most important lesson we’ve learnt, is that the right mix of local experts on the ground is what makes the difference. Attempting to fly in and film in a country you don’t know will always bring challenges and unexpected costs – using local experts (be it crew, fixers, directors or production) is the best insurance policy to keep on time, on budget and with execution you’ll be proud of airing. “Each location comes with it’s own background, brief and challenges, and you have to view them through the prism of context… but the TVC’s I’ve been most proud of are those with a single purpose, it tends to make a much more coherent end product. ” Rob Remington-Drake – Founder, Brave Spark.

Above – Martin Best (left) with the international cast of ‘A Better Way’ (2017)

The author of this article, Martin Best is the Managing Director of the agency Full Reach, and has filmed TVC’s client-side for Carlsberg, Tuborg, Pan Pivo (Croatia), EURO sponsorships and money transfer company WorldRemit. Martin was previously Director of Marketing for Carlsberg in SE Europe, and Head of EMEA Marketing and Global Marketing Partnerships for WorldRemit, where he delivered two global campaigns ‘Money in Safe Hands (2016) and A better way to send money (2017).