Inverness Airport (Notepad January 2003)

The two pages from this notepad show the origins of one of my favourite ads. 

Highlands and Islands Airports was the first client my partner Doug and I pitched for as newly appointed creative directors at Frame in Glasgow. It was actually my first pitch as a CD. Not exactly the most prestigious, hotly contested pitch in the world, but you've got to start somewhere.  

Highlands and Islands Airports, as their name suggests, are responsible for Scotland’s regional airports. Well, they’re called airports, but on a wet foggy day (which is most days up there) you could be forgiven for mistaking some of the smaller ones for bus stops. In fact, on some of the remote islands the airport runway is actually a beach.

But the pitch brief was to advertise Inverness Airport. Incredibly this smallish airport just north of Loch Ness had recently started to offer flights to international destinations. Big news and they wanted a TV ad to announce it.

Doug and I started work and quickly arrived at a wordplay combining Inverness and international – Invernational. It was dumb and cheesy and a bit naff and kind of 80’s and it made people groan when they heard it. But it was also bang on brief and like it or not it stuck in the mind. And no matter what else Doug and I came up with we kept coming back to Invernational. I’d been taught at Saatchis that straplines win pitches. We started to think our silly made up word might actually be a pitch winner – if we could find a way to use it that wasn’t cheesy.

You can see below that I was thinking about two people lying on a car bonnet watching planes take off from Inverness Airport. Clearly influenced by this scene from Wayne’s World. But if they had a car it meant they were adults and grown ups saying Invernational didn’t feel right.

So I tried it with two kids hanging upside down from a washing line, which is something I remember my brother and I doing. I originally called them Ronnie and Gavin, but changed it to Iain and Angus – so their names began with I and A like Inverness Airport. Here are my first attempts at the script. 

That script is more or less what Doug and I acted out in the pitch. I’m pretty sure I didn’t attempt a Scottish accent. The clients loved Iain and Angus and didn’t groan at Invernational. We had won our first pitch.

Below is the final ad. 

So why is it my favourite commercial? In Scotland advertising budgets are small, or to use the local term, wee. And the money we had to make our script was properly wee. It wasn’t as glamorous as some of the shoots I’d been used to as a creative in London, but it was the most fun production I’ve ever been involved in. We chose Adrian McDowell to direct because he'd shot a lot of films with children and we'd worked with him before. We held a noisy and chaotic open audition in Inverness to cast Iain and Angus, where half the town’s kids turned up. When you work with children somehow their excitement rubs off. Those kids didn’t see what we were doing as a small, low budget TV commercial. As far as they were concerned Hollywood had come to Inverness. And that’s why this ad has always been special to me. It wasn’t an award winner. I’ve never included it on my reel or on my website. Very few people outside of the Scottish Highlands have seen it. But it means a lot to me.

Agency: Frame

Client: HIAL

Director: Adrian McDowell

Art Director/CD: Doug Cook

Copywriter/CD: Martin Gillan