Location, location, incentives

Wadi Rum, Jordan, setting for a TVC featuring Mahindra’s XUV500

Wadi Rum, Jordan, setting for a TVC featuring Mahindra’s XUV500


IndividualL TV commercials (TVCs) may not generate the same scale of revenues as feature films or returning series, and they do not usually have much of a spin-off benefit in terms of promoting tourism. Nevertheless, a regular turnover of commercials work can contribute strongly to the overall health and professionalism of the domestic production sector, as illustrated by Czech Republic, Hungary, Spain, Iceland, Morocco and South Africa — or Vancouver, Los Angeles and New York in North America.

In the case of Los Angeles, for example, data from its film office, FilmLA, shows that commercials accounted for more than 6,000 days of shooting in 2018, up 8.7% on the previous year. That represented 15.5% of the city’s total shooting days — more than feature films — underlining the importance of the sector to the city’s workforce. And this does not even take account of web-based productions that might have been branded content.

This TVC premium has not been lost on rival locations, some of which have now embraced commercials in their production-incentive programmes as a way of enticing business. A case in point is Serbia, which made a point of including TVCs in its national filming-incentive programme, introduced during 2016.

At launch, Serbia’s cash rebate was set at 20%, but has since risen to 25%, with the annual budget allocated to the programme also increasing to €7.5m. The Serbian Film Commission says the government-back programme has been a game-changer for the local industry, encouraging a wide range of work into the country. The numbers show the total value of production spend in Serbia due to the incentives amounted to €35.3m in 2018. During the year, the cash rebate was applied to 40 advertising and special-purpose projects. Top in terms of value were campaigns for X-Box Game Pass and the Penny retail chain, which benefited from strong creative and production support from Serbian advertising and service companies.

50 TVCs have taken advantage of the Serbian cash rebate, with many brands attracted by capital city Belgrade’s ability to double for Paris, Moscow, Rome and Barcelona, among others. The Penny campaign, produced by Tony Petersen Film for Germany’s Serviceplan, was a particularly good endorsement of the city’s appeal as a location, especially as it also involved the use of around 1,000 extras and between 150-200 crew members.

Designed to showcase the retailer’s organic food range, the 90-second TVC, ‘Naturally for Everyone’, sees Belgrade given a green makeover courtesy of stunning set design work in combination with clever CGI. “This was the most ambitious project we’ve ever completed in the city, due to the fact that a lot of the greenery you see is set dressing,” says Marija Marković, who line produced the TVC on behalf of Belgrade-based production services firm Emote. “The main kudos for this goes to production designer Tommy Stark and local production designer Sanela Spajić and their team. Liga 01/Sehsucht than added some CG magic in the establishing shots, inspiring us to see Belgrade through new eyes.”

Other countries to include commercials in their incentive programmes are South-East Asian production hub Malaysia, where there is an attractive 30% cash rebate on offer, and the UAE city-state Abu Dhabi, which extends its own 30% rebate to a wide range of production categories, including TVCs. Combined with Dubai’s established status as a centre of TVC excellence, this makes the UAE a compelling proposition for brands in search of desert, coast and spectacular city skylines.

Jordan is another Middle Eastern production hub that has recognised the potential value of wooing commercials producers. While best known for servicing high-end feature films such as A Private War, Star Wars IX and Aladdin — the last of which used 150 Jordanian crew and extras — the country’s new 10%-20% incentive, introduced in 2018, expressly extends to TVCs. The proviso is that they employ 50 Jordanians and spend at least 20% of the budget in the country. Production companies to have shot a commercial in Jordan include Mumbai-based Method Productions, which used Wadi Rum as the backdrop for a TVC featuring Mahindra’s XUV500 vehicle.

• Read the full article in the Lions Daily News, published here online, and in print throughout the city of Cannes, during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, from June 16 to 21

Harriet Palmer