You might have seen GB Climbing Team member Imogen Horrocks on the telly. She stars in a new ad for the Honda Civic, called Up, filled with stunning scenery and spicy-looking climbing moves. Sarah Stirling finds out her take on it.
In the advert, Imy begins climbing up a ladder, then leaps off onto a rock face, preferring the less predictable and more challenging route. When she tops out, she discovers the new Honda Civic.
Each time you watch it – and the Hollywood style visual effects are stunning, with soaring natural landscapes and vertigo-inducing drops – you notice more detail. For example, it’s a giant clay mountain made of Civic parts. If you look closely, sections of the wall are built to resemble parts of the new car.
So what does it all mean? I ask Imy.
WATCH: Imogen Horrocks in the new Honda advert, Up
“I begin by climbing a ladder and then push it out from under me. It’s about pushing your limits. During the advert, it flashes to parts of the wall designed to resemble parts of the car. The shapes on the rock are symbolic, as if I'm challenging them,” Imy explains. There are also clever hidden depths for insiders: they actually used clay to form the new casts for the car.
So why climbing? Jonathan Allee, European Communications Manager at Honda Motor Europe, told me:
“Climbing provides the perfect visual metaphor for what we wished to convey, and allowed for a striking portrayal of something that is, for most people, a step out of the ordinary. Up encapsulates Honda’s challenging spirit in adopting a ‘clean sheet’ approach while creating the new Civic.”
“Imogen was the ideal fit for the lead role in Up. A young climber with bravery, confidence and determination, she personifies everything that makes the 2017 Civic so exciting.”
Scott Dungate, Creative Director at W+K London, who created the ad, added, “'Soichiro Honda encouraged engineers to be brave in their design, even if it meant leaving all they know behind. They had a phrase for this, 'kick the ladder out', which meant engineers couldn't fall back on the steps that got them to where they are today.”
The ad immediately reminds me of someone who was a pro at 'kicking the ladder out' – Catherine Destivelle, soloing in Mali.
“Pretty great it reminds you of her!” says Imy, when I tell her that. “Strong female climbers inspire me. I love it when you watch women pull off moves that look impossible.”
Did she have her hair and make up done? I ask, watching it again, while talking to her on the phone.
“I had my hair put in a bun but they just put mud and Vaseline on my face. It wasn’t very nice!”
Imy, who looks epic with mud on her face, isn't interested in a career on screen. Unless it involves climbing, that is. “I would be in another ad if it involved climbing, but not acting! The bit at the end of the ad, where I had to look into the camera, that took a whole day to film!”
It’s all about climbing for Imy, who trains five days a week, and is sponsored by the centre she’s been climbing at since she discovered the sport at their kid’s club, age 12: White Spider down south. She has so far climbed 7c indoors, and 7b+ outdoors – a bloc called Carnage at Font, but doesn't feel she's found her limits quite yet.
Bouldering is her favourite, and dynamic moves and crimps and overhangs in particular, but she’s also competed in lead-climbing and tried a bit of sport and trad outdoors. She’s off on a gap year with boyfriend Aidan Roberts soon, who's also on Team GB, planning to climb at Rocklands in South Africa and in Australia.
Imy at Tintagel North climbing The Apprentice, F7a+
Is Imy excited about being in the ad? Not half:
“I first saw it on the big screen at the cinema. It was amazing! I couldn't sit still, I kept saying, 'It's me!' It was surreal. I was like a little kid at Christmas. I was with Aidan and he was also super psyched when it came on. My mates had told me they had seen the ad the cinema so I thought it might be on but I wasn’t sure. We went to watch Logan, it’s a really sad film!”
So how did Imy get involved with the Honda ad? All the climbing centres in Britain received an email, asking for people to apply to be in the ad for this new car that's made in Britain. Imy applied, and got invited to a casting, where she had to show off her climbing skills.
The ad was then filmed in Romania, on a huge purpose-built polystyrene wall. “It was pretty spectacular,” Imy tells me. “It looked amazing. They had created this wall and there were green screens around me. Romania was beautiful. We stayed in the middle of Bucharest but I didn't get to see much of it. We were up at 5am to film every day, and in bed by 12pm!”
“I honestly couldn’t tell you how many times I climbed the wall for the film. A lot though! It was eight days, and I was on the actual wall for five days. The bits I'm holding onto and climbing are real, the other bits and the background are green screen. I was being belayed by a crane for most of it, but for some of the dyno shots I just had mats under me.”
So what's life off screen like for Imy?
“I do quite a lot of competitions. I like the people who are there – you meet people from all over. My advice for anyone starting out in climbing would be don’t be afraid to talk beta with others, and push yourself to do stuff. Beginners tend to hold back. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and you’ll get stronger quicker.”
“The British climbing scene is brilliant! Everyone is so friendly and if you're struggling with something everyone is keen to help out and discuss beta. It's great to go to a wall and be able to climb with anyone.”
Imy training hard – it's all about climbing for this young lass
Ian Dunn, manager of Team GB, commented:
“Imy is a member of the Training to Perform Tier within the New GB Development Squad. She has in the past climbed extremely well in both Lead and Bouldering, however over the last couple of years she has concentrated more on the Bouldering Competition Circuit.
“With the format of the Olympics encouraging multi-disciplined climbers, Imy has shown an interested to get back on a rope and that will be great to see. I feel she will soon pick up where she left off and push the other girls in her category for places at Internationals in 2017.
“The Junior GB Climbers for 2017 are itching for the competition season to start and I am looking forward to some fantastic results from our talented young climbers.”
And what's next for Imy?
“I’m in the last year of college, studying art, graphics. I’m not entirely sure what I'll do next. I’m going to see how I feel. Anyway, the ad is going to fund my gap year while I decide!”
GB Climbing is supported by the BMC, Mountaineering Scotland, Clif Bar, and Duco.
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HIGHLIGHTS: 2019 La Sportiva British Bouldering Championships