Creating streets for life: writer Raven Brookes talks us through the making of an 'Ode to a road'
'Verse marketing', the art of crafting a poem for advertising purposes, has become very popular in recent years, as our most recent 'A Better Way to Live' film 'Streets for Life' demonstrates.
In order to create verse marketing, you have to employ the services of a poet, who also knows a thing or two about both marketing and script-writing. And so, it fell to me.
This blog covers how I went about doing that. But, before I got stuck in, there were a few things to consider.
The purpose of poetry
What is it about verse marketing that makes it so effective for conveying the complexity of buying a house? Well, put simply, poetry speaks to people in a way that a normal commercial voice-over cannot. It tells a story, it paints a picture; it stirs emotion and creates a connection between the subject, the reader and the listener – even when the reader and the listener are the same person.
Poetry is perfect for voice-overs, because poems need to be heard. A poem is just as much about 'listening' as it is 'learning'. The way the words work together phonetically is essential to how it makes the listener feel – which is why it was the obvious choice for our ‘Streets for Life’ film.
We wanted more than just a cleverly constructed list of features and benefits and the usual 'sales spiel' that comes with a commercial voice-over. We wanted to help our audience really feel something, and to understand how, and why, we do what we do to the level that we do it.
The Redrow way
'Listening and learning' from existing communities, before even the first blueprints are drawn up, is a key factor in how we work on every project. We hold extensive community consultations, featuring both the council and local participation groups, to get a full understanding of the areas we are building in, and the people we are building around.
This covers everything, including access to local shops and other small businesses, the transport links, and the sourcing of raw materials. All of this will help the development 'blend in' with its surroundings, as if it's been there for many years.
Wherever possible, we get direct input from the local residents and business owners in the ways that certain areas are designed. For example, many of our developments have competitions with the local schools to design the play areas featured in the development.
We don't start building until we get a complete picture. A picture where all the needs and wants from each party have individually been considered and, wherever possible, factored in. We are building more than just a street; we are building a community. And, in order to do that, we're listening first.
The creative and the concepts
As the writer chosen for this task, it was my job to convey the 'A Better Way to Live' concept of listening and learning, first and foremost, while also taking the 'bigger picture' of what a development or a street actually is, and what it means to the people who travel, work and live on it. That it is more than just a place with buildings, it's a community. And so is a Redrow development.
I was given a rough outline of what would be seen on screen, along with some key concepts to include, wherever possible. The creative brief for the visuals featured an artist observing a Redrow street as life unfolds as it usually would, painting what he sees as the community gathers around him to see his masterpiece come to life.
The concepts included: ‘streets’, 'preparation’, ‘foundations’, ‘vision’, ‘life', 'vibrancy’, ‘the bigger picture’ ‘breathe life’, `bringing people together’, ‘built to last’, which I was to either include as keywords, or refer to thematically.
I was also told that the chosen voice-over artist, former Coronation Street actress Martine Brown, would have a warm, soft and friendly Northern accent – so the poem had to reflect that too, in a very subtle way.
The rest was on me. Here's what I came up with.
Streets for Life
What is a street, anyway?
Is it paving slabs and tarmac?
A network of pipes?
Properties built and sold?
A street is more
It's careful preparation
The laying of foundations
A network of promises
It's more than a place
It's a time for people
To share a vision
And to grow, learn, live together
It's more than bricks and mortar
Its value is in life
Its vitality, its vibrancy
A beating heart and soul
It's more than planning and permission
Rather, the 'bigger picture'
Beyond the shops, schools, parks
That it breathes life into
A street is more
More than names and addresses
It's something built to last
It's how 'community' happens.
After the poem was crafted, tweaked and signed off, the directions were structured around it, so the visuals and the voice-over would align.
The final film for ‘Streets for Life’ can be viewed below.
You can also find out more about how we create a better way to live on our website.