To infinity and beyond

27th October 2016

In October 2016, AHC turned 20.

Twenty years of continuous innovation…it’s been an epic journey. So much has changed since 1996: the year DVDs were released, the Spice Girls (remember them?) had their first number one, and a time where only 4% of the UK population accessed a new-fangled communication network called ‘the Internet’.

As a creative, I’ve always been fascinated by adventure, the pioneering spirit and doing things first. So, what better way to celebrate, as our business successfully enters yet another decade, than doing something that truly symbolises the AHC brand? Something that says who we are and what we’re about. To boldly go where no pension communication agency has ever been before…to be the first into space.

Since I was a child, nothing has better epitomised adventure, bravery and true pioneering spirit than space travel. To go into the unknown, into the blackness of space, not knowing what to expect. Rather ironically, we help millions to know exactly what to expect as they hurtle towards their financial future.

Whilst space travel is a slightly ‘out there’ to bring to fruition, why should that matter?! After all, taking on impossibly difficult tasks and making them happen is what we’re all about. Now, anyone thinking this idea was easy to make work, we faced a rollercoaster ride full of challenges. Nothing slams the door in the face of your hopes more than the good old British weather…and Yorkshire weather at that!

We waited patiently for our window of opportunity, coordinating our every move with the CAA, the time – and our hopes of launch – began to pass us by. Until the morning of 6th October, that is, when it was all systems go. Airspace approval…check. Weather system…check. Giant helium balloon ready…check. Camera and GPS satellite tracking…check. Houston: we were ready to go!

From the moment of launch, we prayed for a safe return to Earth. We tracked the AHC ship perfectly for fifty minutes until the signal was lost. We rode the first dip of that rollercoaster. Houston: we have a problem. Our worst fears had happened…or had they? In a mad dash across York, we searched for what we thought was the ship’s final resting place. After an hour battling through thorny hedges and fields, our hopes that we’d ever find it were fading. Another hour of fruitless searching, still nothing. Then, almost miraculously, the GPS fired back to life. Another mad dash across York as we headed to the coordinates of the latest signal. Nobody ever said space travel was going to be easy!

Three-and-a-half hours after launch, and following a 125,000ft climb into the inky-black atmosphere, our camera fell safely back to earth with the most amazing footage we could’ve ever hoped for, recorded on the tiniest of tiny SD cards – themselves, barely envisaged twenty years ago. It brought with it a huge relief to the four people on the ground who made the whole thing happen. We dared to be different and we defied the odds!

From humble beginnings in the UK to an almost eighty-strong team, and bases in Australia and in the U.S. – we’re still defying the odds. Still innovating, and still thinking differently. Here’s to everyone at AHC, as we welcome the dawn of our third decade. We’ve done more than we could have even dreamt twenty years ago: not content with simply going global, we went even further. We went to space and back!

Watch the video here: ahc.com/thepensionpioneers

Martin East

Head of Creative

Back to the blog

Case Studies