Some Stars Are Born

On the back of a very successful AR Conference in 2017, we were somewhat worried about being able to deliver an equally successful event in 2018, but needn’t have been. Our ‘Commercial Break’ event not only equipped some of our ARs with key skills that businesses need in the digital age, but also provided valuable product training from our insurer sponsors, in a format beyond the norm, but one that was very focused on the unique selling points of policies and ways in which to communicate them.

‘Commercial Break’ could now be renamed ‘A Star is Born’ given the enthusiasm that our ARs put into making their own commercial videos that were all intended to advertise one of our insurer’s products.

The day was split into two parts, with Rudding Park in Harrogate being the venue for the daytime element and Cedar Court Hotel that for the evening extravaganza. The premise of the day was simple - split the group into four teams and create a TV commercial based on the brief given by the four sponsoring insurance companies, Allianz, Chubb, Hiscox and Chubb.

The morning session gave the insurers the opportunity to pitch their brief. At this stage, none of our attending ARs had a clue into which insurer team they would be put, so all had to listen attentively to the insurer ‘pitches’, to ensure they banked the key information that they would need in order to make a winning, sales-orientated video.

After the pitches the teams were allocated and there was just enough time before lunch for the teams to come up with some initial ideas for the afternoon. During the lunch period, the event team arrived on site and set to work in setting up an array of props and costumes which could be utilised during the production of the teams’ commercials. 

Having taken on board some calories, the teams were able to start on their masterpieces and unleash their inner-Spielberg in the afternoon. The event co-ordinator gave everyone the instructions, whilst also providing the all-important camera training and making us aware about the props and costume available to us. Once teams had gathered at their tables it was clear there were differing points of view when it came to how to approach the task. Some teams instantly rushed to the props and costumes, while others were more composed and tried to get the team involved in idea generation and storyboarding.

It was clear that some teams were struggling to get started, but after about 10 minutes the room was awash with the sights and sounds of creativity. Some teams took advantage of the facilities on site, with many taking their commercials to the bar or locations in the grounds. It was evident that some members of the delegation enjoyed dressing up a little too much and went all out to wow with their new personas. The key to getting things right was concentrating on collaboration, team building, problem solving and strategic planning. All of this came to the fore during the task, as teams bonded and allocated different duties, such as scripting, shooting, acting, narrating, producing or editing, between team members.

Once the day’s filming had come to its conclusion, attendees made their way across Harrogate to the Cedar Court Hotel where the inaugural ARcademy Awards were taking place. Delegates took advantage of the few hours before dinner to network with both insurers and each other as well as recounting the day’s events. The room was set up Oscars-style with the all-important red carpet entrance, plus stage, big screen and life-size Oscar statuettes.

A fabulous dinner was served, with the main attraction taking place between courses, in the form of the showing of the commercials and the all-important awards presentations. It was great to see the effort and work that all teams had put into creating their ads and the resulting output certainly gave no hint of the initial apprehension and mental block experienced by some of the teams. There were plenty of awards handed out during the evening with some of the standout moments and achievements being;

  • Lucy O’Brien Best Director
  • Holly Whitehead Best Costume
  • Rick Matthews Best Stunt
  • Andrew Stubbs Best Dog Performance

Both day and night sessions were a resounding success this year and it has been rewarding to hear so much positive feedback from the attendees. ARs’ newly-found video editing skills can easily be put into practice in their offices, allowing them to make use of this compelling form of promotion within their AR business’s marketing. Some people definitely surprised themselves when it came to discovering their creative spark and the confidence to utilise this has soared.

We can also report that some ARs, like Dean Holloway, have already put their video skills into practice, creating collateral for business promotion.

It’s fair to say that there was great camera-arderie in the room and this provides ARs with added motivation and the chance to pick up tips from each other when it comes to business tactics. Attendees also heard about some brand-new products direct from insurers and have been equipped with skills that would typically be taught on courses priced £450 upwards.

The moral of the tale is to not miss the next AR Conference, whatever its theme, if you can possibly make it, as there are so many valuable facets to each event from which to benefit. Digital communication is a key component of marketing today and rewardingly many of our ARs now know how to include it in their business promotion.

After successful conferences over the past four years, coming up with ideas for 2019, Gauntlet’s 25th anniversary year, will be a challenging task, but one that we can’t wait to tackle.

Another Fine Mezze, York, 2017

It’s probably not every Appointed Representative network that would give their AR away-day a Laurel and Hardy theme with a twist, entitling it ‘Another Fine Mezze’, but then we’re not any other AR network!

As our ARs will testify, this year’s AR teambuilding and peer networking event was simply heaps of fun and not a shambles, despite taking place in York – known for that particular thoroughfare.  With over 40 attendees, we split our AR my of conference goers into three groups, setting each three challenges to complete during the course of the day: a Mezze cookery challenge at York Cookery School; a treasure hunt around York and a fiendish escape-room mission at GR8 Escape!

All three caused merriment, manoeuvres of the clever, considered and ‘creative’ kind, and many modes in which to mingle.  There’s an ‘M’ theme here, as you may note, because, when the scores on the doors were announced, it was Gauntlet director Ian McCarron’s team that smashed it, largely thanks to picking up 10 bonus points for completing the treasure hunt in record time - some compensation for his team members who ran, rather than walking the course!  How they deserved that pay out! 

With plenty of opportunity to wind down over dinner at Revolution, all ARs agreed this was the best AR event yet, just leaving us with the conundrum of how to top this in 2018!

Netwalking, Yorkshire Dales, September 2016

Our second Appointed Representative network event took place in September 2016 and was all about ‘netwalking’ in the stunning Yorkshire Dales. Our ARs enjoyed briefings on a mountain side and were each put into different groups throughout the day, so that all could work together, bond and share their experiences, in a fun and relaxed way. Our event endorsed the view that creativity and ideas-generation is boosted when out and about in the natural environment and ARs left with many ‘nuggets’ of knowledge that could be used in their individual businesses.

Weetwood Hall, Leeds, September 2015

Gauntlet’s first Appointed Representative conference took place at Weetwood Hall, Leeds, in September 2015, and gave ARs, from across the country, the opportunity to come together, learn of the latest support systems available from Gauntlet and hear of new developments from participating insurers. Above all, the mix of formal and informal networking allowed ARs to gain peer support and share best practice, demonstrating how an AR is never on their own when they are part of Gauntlet Enterprise and members of its Appointed Representative network.