Paul Alexander
Paul Alexander
Group Creative Director

Giving TFI Friday Some Ginger

The Bid

Once we had pitched our idea to Channel 4 and TFI (Chris Evans and his production company Ginger Productions) it was a matter of waiting… We knew we were up against one other strong bid and it would all come down to which creative would be the best fit.

After a nervous few days we got the amazing news that Crabbie’s had been successful and were sponsoring the iconic re-launch of TFI Friday, hosted by Chris Evans.

We also knew that with the first show due to go on air in a matter of weeks, making this happen was going to be an incredibly exciting, and challenging project for everyone concerned. Not only did we need to do it quickly, we needed to make sure we produced idents that celebrated ‘Give It Some Ginger’ and put Crabbie’s back on TV in a new and memorable way.

The first thing was a meeting over at Channel 4’s new Manchester offices to discuss the creative further and meet with various people regarding legal requirements, etc. We ran through all creative ideas with Channel 4 and asked for feedback on what they felt would fit best with the programming. We also discussed the various ident lengths and how many there were – 3 x 15 seconds intros, 6 x 5 seconds and 1 x 10 second outro for each of the nine live programmes, as well as 1 x 15 second New Year’s Day Special. All to be delivered in under 15 days.

The Idea

Here at Ponderosa Group we have been also been working on a brand new global campaign for Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer, which hangs on the line ‘Give It Some Ginger’ and what better way to launch this than reaching the nearly 4 million viewers that TFI Friday attracts.

We explored many ways of cracking the brief (Shaun Ryder was even mentioned at one point). We started to concentrate on the idea of a character giving the world some ginger, from inanimate objects to people and animals. We then explored how this person would look – confident, friendly and, of course, ginger.


The tight turnaround on this project meant we had to start talking to production houses and producers straight away. We brought in Manchester-based Chief Productions and Agency Producer Sharon Gunnell to get the ball rolling. They were tasked with looking for suitable directors, workable locations and making the most of our budget.

After receiving a selection of directors treatments we decided that director Cris Mudge was our man. He had worked on some great TV commercials in the past, from Irn Bru through to Specsavers. We felt he would help bring out the right performance from our actor and perfect the timing of our idents.

Director Cris Mudge said “I loved the idea of ‘Giving it Some Ginger’. It was simple, original and funny. I’m sure the world would be a happier place if it were more ginger! The project needed to have a certain spontaneity about it, so after finding our ginger man we just set him up and let him go. The main challenge was stopping our guy from turning everything ginger. He loved it. At one point he even turned the air ginger.”

For the 5-second break and also the 10-second end of programme idents, we wanted to create different content. Earlier in the year, we had created a TV ad for Crabbie’s that featured some incredible pouring shots of the liquid, we felt these would provide us with a great range of 5-second idents to fill the programme. For the final spot of each show we wanted to create engagement with the public, and ask them what they would give some ginger to. We asked them to submit stills of themselves, their friends, their pets… anything. We would then ginger them up a bit and feature these in the 10-second idents.


The route we had chosen ensured the viewer did not get blind to the idents as there were now over 20 versions across the 10 programmes, all of which needed to be conceived, produced and supplied in just 3 weeks!

Once the basics of the idea had been storyboarded, and now that we had our director lined up, the next stage was liaising with Channel 4 at every stage. This had its own challenges regarding who we would cast for the main character in the idents. Channel 4 were clear that they did not want a Chris Evans lookalike, either in face, glasses or clothing style. We now had a clear casting brief.

The Casting

The casting was held at Spotlight Studios in Leicester Square, London. The casting brief had been supplied to all talent agencies – male, ginger haired, confident, etc.

We had over 30 people turn up to the casting. Some were great; some not so great… and there were even a few odd ones. They posed for headshots and then, under direction, did some moves in front of a camera to see how they interpreted the concept of Giving It Some Ginger. But, there was one man with great character and confidence really stood out – we had found our man.

TFI-Three TFI-Four

The next stage was to present our casting tape to the client, and present our recommendation as well as a 2nd choice. Both were strong recommendations, but myself and Cris had a clear favourite. But, would the client agree with us?

The Client

Throughout the process Claire Kelly, Marketing Controller for Crabbie’s, had a clear idea of what this character should look like, and how they should be giving the world ginger. So, with crossed-fingers, we presented our recommendation to Claire. Thankfully she agreed with us. Mathew Lewis-Carter had everything we were looking for, confidence, attitude and great screen presence.


Lead Character

Originally our plan was not to feature a character who had a beard or moustache, but with feedback from Channel 4 on how the character should be developed we all decided that this would add further personality to our character. However Mathew, our chosen actor, had neither. We didn’t have time to wait for him to grow one naturally, so we took matters into our own hands and enlisted the help of Roxanna Guillani, a great makeup artist, to bring his beard to life.


Shoot Day

Sunshine and blue skies adorned Manchester!


After nervously looking at the weather forecast the night before, it seemed we had luck on our side – the weather had changed for the better. We knew that we had approx. 2 hours per setup, so mobility was key. What’s more, we also knew we had limited daylight hours at this time of year.


Sophie Bennett, Account Director at Ponderosa Group said “We were incredibly lucky on the shoot day, due to the tight timescales of the project we had no contingency days to allow for weather or any other unforeseen circumstances! Mathew was the perfect casting for us; he stepped into the role seamlessly, providing all the charisma we could have asked for. All in all the shoot went extremely well, and everything from the locations to the poodle were perfect.”

Voice Over

For the Crabbie’s brand ad we produced earlier in the year, we used comedy legend and all-round nice guy Vic Reeves for the voice over. And, for these new idents, we felt that Vic would bring the same level of energy and fun that we were after. We had an hour recording with Vic who was at Silk Sounds in Soho, while we listened in via an ISDN link at 422 Post Production in Manchester. Vic as ever delivered his lines perfectly, with as much personality as ever.

Round Up

Richard Midgley, Group Planning Director of The Ponderosa Group, went on to say: “Securing the creative account for the TFI sponsorship is a major coup for not just the Crabbie’s brand but also The Ponderosa Group. With just fifteen days to turn the production around and a very competitive bid process, this campaign is testimony to our ability to work quickly without compromising brand quality or creativity. We love the work and hope our core audiences do too.”

The end results were delivered to Channel 4 in less than 15 days and everyone is incredibly happy with how the final idents have turned out. The first airdate is Friday the 16th October, so go on, watch the show and Give It Some Ginger!


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