Marketing: New peaks for ad campaigns: An agency climbs the Eiger on client's behalf

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The Independent Online
HALFWAY up a mountain is the last place you would expect to find the average advertising executive.

But this is where staff of the Manchester advertising agency Cheetham Bell went for the first national press campaign for Berghaus, a brand of rucksacks and outdoor gear.

The adverts were shot in the Himalayas, the Alps and the Cairngorms to ensure the products were shown in the surroundings for which they were designed. Unfortunately for the team sent on the shoot, this meant sub-zero temperatures, blizzards and frostbite.

But why go to such extreme lengths? Surely there are easier ways to advertise a waterproof jacket? 'Most Berghaus products are bought by people with no intention of climbing the Eiger, but they aspire to the rugged image,' David Bell, a copywriter, explained. 'We have to show the gear in the environment it's built for.

'We needed to show that even though the Reeboks and Nikes of this world might bring out hiking boots, it is Berghaus that has always done this kind of gear.'

A nine-strong team (art director, photographer, copywriter, three British guides and three assistants) climbed 12,000 feet up the Eiger in Switzerland just before Christmas.

'It was 40 degrees below zero,' Mr Bell said, 'and we were all wearing six layers of (Berghaus) clothing.'

The nine were roped together because of the threat of avalanches or falling through the surface of the glacier, and ended up being snowed in for four days in a hut 12ft long and 6ft wide. 'We shared two double beds, one on top of the other, between us,' Mr Bell said.

They returned after Christmas, this time to Chamonix in the French Alps.

'The weather was better that time, but the photographer still managed to get frostbite,' Mr Bell recalled. 'His gloves were only off for a few seconds but the moisture on his hands instantly froze to the cold metal of the camera body. Later that evening the skin on his fingers peeled off. But we got some stunning photography from that shoot.'

Another session entailed a climber being dangled in a freezing waterfall for two hours.

The Himalayan shots were taken last summer by art director Andy Cheetham and photographer Chris Cheetham (no relation). 'The 35-hour trip to Skardu in northern Pakistan was an omen of what was in store for the rest of the shoot,' Andy Cheetham said.

'Halfway along the main highway, an avalanche wiped out the only bridge and all the equipment had to be carried over the river on a makeshift bridge by porters. When we eventually arrived in Skardu we were greeted by a rat dragging along a dead chicken in front of the hotel.'

The first shot the two set up was of a crowd of Himalayan porters throwing Berghaus rucksacks from the top of a bus - to demonstrate durability.

'I found a really ornate bus to hire for a couple of hours,' Chris Cheetham recalled, 'only to discover after the shoot that it was full of people waiting to travel who were simply told there was a delay. They took it well . . .

'The locals were all very enthusiastic. The last time they had seen cameras was when a crew turned up to film K2.'

Chris and Andy Cheetham's second stint was in the Cairngorms, which they say would have been easy compared with their previous location, if they had not both caught amoebic dysentery during their trip to the Himalayas.

Berghaus is not the only account for which the agency pulls out the physical stops. A recent campaign for the Scottish National Sports Centre, Glenmore Lodge, had David Bell and Andy Cheetham digging snow shelters, white-water rafting and rock climbing, 'to get a feel for what we were advertising'.

Mr Bell accepts that there are limits to the agency's enthusiasm for experiencing its clients' products: 'We hope we never have to come up with ideas for advertising a laxative.'

(Photograph omitted)