campaignlive.co.uk, Tuesday, 16 December 2003 12:00AM
1. South Africa
South Africa remains the first choice as a location for shooting commercials. Not since Bryan Adams' (Everything I do) I do it for you has a number-one position been held for so long. It's in the same time zone as the UK, renowned for versatile scenery and offers amazing value for money. But just as U2 usurped Bryan after 16 chart-topping weeks, rival locations are seeking to topple South Africa from its number-one spot.
Nicknamed "The new Cape Town", Argentina has been taking business from South Africa. Its collapsed economy has made it as cheap as chips for crews from overseas and its European architecture and casting make it a popular choice. Neighbouring Uruguay is also becoming popular.
3. Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is becoming a more expensive location as demand increases. Yet you get what you pay for: Prague is particularly well-equipped and, in terms of casting, stunning female models are in plentiful supply - just as long as you don't want them to perform. Due to its lively nightlife, Prague is perfect for clubbing scenes: Bacardi Breezer spots have been shot there.
Hungary will definitely be one to watch in 2004 when it joins the EU. It's already popular with production companies who tend to stick around the capital, Budapest, which is like Prague, but cheaper. Ads this year that have been filmed there include Gordon's Gin and Nissan.
5. Spain If you want good weather but haven't got much time, head for Spain. Casting can sometimes prove tricky, but Spain's versatility more than compensates. The latest spot for Nurofen, which showed a bull lost in a maze-like brain, was shot there. Portugal is also becoming a popular option, particularly around Lisbon.
6. Australia/New Zealand
Pack a crate of Red Bull for the producer: the time difference is going to be a serious pain if you're filming in Australia or New Zealand. On the plus side, the scenery is stunning, English is spoken and it's not that pricey. Expect more shoots to take place there in 2004: Warners has just opened up a studio on the Gold Coast.
Canada is a cheaper alternative to the US, although it still works out more expensive than many other options such as South Africa or Prague. The "wolves" spot for Nurofen was shot there this year, as well as a spot for Motorola. But it's mainly US teams you'll see on location there as it is so much cheaper than filming on their home turf.
Mexico is a firm favourite for production companies, particularly US ones, although it has a terrible record of reliability. Casting can be tricky, particularly if you are seeking a European look.
You don't always have to jump on a plane, particularly in these budget-conscious times. Lowe's spot for Tesco's Cherokee gear was filmed on Camber Sands, England's answer to Miami's South Beach. And while some overseas shoots are dogged by dodgy tummies and lost luggage, there's something to be said for not even venturing out of the comforts of Soho.
Boasting unparalleled studios, facilities and a faultless service culture, the US, and particularly LA, is always a good bet. There's no language barrier to overcome and definitely no shortage of actors. All production companies agree that it's great for production, but has proved prohibitively expensive over the past few years.
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk