Next time someone tells you that your idea ‘isn’t very us’ tell them to watch an advert for a bank

Yet another high street bank has smashed it out of the park with their latest cute piece of advertising. Santander’s ‘Piggy’ ad is so perfect that I immediately googled ‘how do I get a Santander piggy bank’ and was all too happy to share the video far and wide.

If you didn’t hold up your hands in horror at 0:23 then you’re not human. I tested it on my partner (who is usually ironclad with this sort of stuff) but even she started crying around 15 seconds in.

This got me thinking, why do we identify with this lost pig? Why do we care? Is it the sad human-like eyes; the superb anthropomorphic animation against a backdrop of heart-wrenchingly sad music; or is it something deeper – a human need to protect the weak and be the hero of the story? Whatever it is, this piece of advertising is a masterclass in pathetic fallacy and manufacturing empathy. I want to jump in, give the kids at 0:20 a stern talking to and welcome that pig into a loving home.

You wouldn’t think this advert comes from an organisation where  ‘consistent and growing profitability, as well as a strong balance sheet’ are top of the strategic agenda. If anything, the ad pushes against this, opting for a deeper emotional connection – we’re here for you, trust us, we’ve got this.

Banks: Where creative advertising lives

Every time someone tells me that an idea ‘doesn’t fit with our image’ or isn’t ‘the Company X way of things’ I immediately point them to a bank’s YouTube channel.

Since the 2008 financial crash, I’ve seen some brilliant and risky positioning by banks to rebuild trust and loyalty with customers. More recently, I’ve seen banks like Halifax – previously famous for the awful ‘who gives you extra’ – do an about face and target the younger generation, who now, despite all odds, are trying to get on the housing ladder.

Can you imagine the reaction to this video when the concept was first unveiled in the boardroom:

“We’re going to use Top Cat as the new face of Halifax – Tip Top! We’re going for millennial home buyers who want extra!”
*A man in a suit faints*
“It’ll be fine. We’ve got Scooby Doo and Wizard of Oz lined up for next quarter.”

It doesn’t stop there. Halifax are also using recognisable shows like the Flintstones and Thunderbirds to sell savings accounts. It’s awesome and fun. I don’t believe it’s simply a publicity stunt, the depth and breadth of the creativity points to a slight repositioning of the bank – the tone of these cheeky assets running through the top pages of its website, and down into sub-content on ‘saving tips’ presented by Brains himself.

The irreverence and playfulness of the ideas will attract new customers. Turning your homepage into a cartoon is risky business – not very bank-like? – yet these assets will continue to resonate with their target audience, the bank trading on the nostalgia factor for years to come.

Think of the audience, not your history

Universities are terrible at taking risks. Watch a university ad and it won’t take long for you to see a ‘green campus’ at the heart of a ‘culturally diverse’ city. Yawn. The bulk of universities are youth brands. Surely this permits greater risk-taking than that of Halifax or Santander?

The challenge is communicating to senior stakeholders that a departure from standard positioning, isn’t a departure from core values.

Top Cat may be talking ‘mular’, but the advisor is still determined to ‘give him extra’ where other banks perhaps won’t. It’s the same with Santander’s Piggy – not what you would expect from a global investment bank, but a perfect use of emotional marketing to make the target audience sit up and listen.

Player 2

The best decision my father ever made (other than impressing my mum with fast cars) was to introduce me to Super Mario Bros. I was four years old when I first picked up a Nintendo controller and I’ve been a part of the brand’s story ever since.

The generation who grew up playing Mario, now have to deal with the realities of living at home longer, paying massively high rents and finding a job that isn’t part of the ‘gig economy’. For me, it feels natural to speak to my peers in pixels, a style associated with a much simpler story  – 2D planes, scheduled television and summers that lasted longer than School terms.

The career ladder of a graduate in 2008

Career ladder of a graduate in 2008


Rejection letter

Rejection letter


Pokemon player 2

Pokemon player 2

Education, education and education

Education education and education


Living at home

Living at home


Super player 2

Super player 2

Life of Sty

I’ve been writing poetry for around a decade. Sure, I look back at some of my earlier works and die a little, but some of the recent stuff isn’t too bad.

The piece I’m proudest of is Life of Sty. In it, three characters – the poet, the protagonist and Sty – fight for who has control over the story. If you read it alongside Geoffrey Hill’s Mercian Hymns, you will see a lot of similarities between it and Sty’s structure.

Like Hill’s poem, Life of Sty is autobiographical, but only to the extent that its elusive language reflects my state of mind at the time of writing. Who knows who’s history this is?

Enjoy Life of Sty. To the graduates of the class of 2009 – I’m glad the majority of you are okay now. It was a bit touch and go for the ‘lost generation’, but hey, looks like we’re going to be rich by 61 so, you know, swings around roundabouts.

Read: Life of sty


You gave us language and we’ll take it away

In the late noughties, it was particularly tough for young people to get a foot on the career ladder and the poorest were priced out of the market with the explosion of free internships – industry’s answer to the global financial crisis.

You gave us language and we’ll take it away captures the mood of a ‘lost generation’ moving between gigs, forced to live at home and always in limbo, at the cusp of starting their own lives, yet always just missing out.



A shiny happy place relaxed
animated with the imaginary
insatiable in its optimism
in love with being in love
a flat pack kitchen maison
everybody perfectly happen
like everybody else.

Lost Generation


G    ration
gen      ion
os              a
L  s   g
g            ti
t  g
n          on
st  g
n     ation
st generation
L                         n
t    n
Lost          ra
o      e   e a   io
L  st g  n   r  t   n
Lost generation.



Chunky radiators
wet play, scissors and glue
we talk
stencil out an existence on rough paper
trace elements of our childhood to
shock corridors, repetitive lines
collapsible classrooms
with foldaway walls
this place was a labyrinth
with a one-way system
twist               rewrite           shake it out
punch a hole in the glass ceiling
hang its credentials
from the sky
a constellation of fine philosophies
new leaves
an orchid league
degrees worthy of plinth distribution
bright eyes
scribling out the dark
filling in the blanks.

Aston University: VR Headset


Results Day is an emotional time. Forget the pictures in local newspapers, students holding up little pieces of their future, just imagine (or recall) that feeling of finally knowing what was happening with your life in September after months of waiting.

Now picture a campaign that rides of the back of that high. That celebrates your emotional moment of getting into university and gives you a glimpse of the fun, unscripted times ahead.

Working with Aston University, I managed the creation of a branded VR headset that was sent to all new Aston students on Results Day. Additionally, I scripted and storyboarded a 360-degree video to accompany the device.

The headset was packaged with a small postcard, including a link to a video explaining how to use it:

You can also watch and learn more about the creative concept for the VR video in the project: Say Hello to Aston in 360.

Aston University: Email marketing and content creation


A major part of Aston’s conversion journey is email marketing.

Having worked with stakeholders to map out their student journey, I created a suite of communications to connect with their audience at key parts of the conversion process.

My philosophy was to simplify communications around clear calls to action and produce content with an emphasis on adding value to improve engagement.

The first example below was sent to post-16 students during their summer exam period. It features a video on how to beat procrastination, as well a downloadable guide (produced by myself) on how to own revision with zero motivation.


The second email below was sent to Law offer holders. It contains a student success story, helping these particularly hot leads ‘picture’ themselves on campus and, better yet, securing an aspirational legal placement.


To date, I have produced over one-hundred emails for Aston’s conversion journey.

Aston University: Learn here. Earn more.


One of the perks of working in marketing is creating something that resonates. Sure, first comes the strategy, positioning etc. but eventually you get to the fun part: messaging and creative.

My task was to take the statistic:

Aston is ranked 2nd in the UK by the Economist for boosting graduate salaries, graduates earning, on average, within £3000 more five years after graduation.

… and turn it into something campaignable.

After a little wordplay and tapping into key themes, I arrived at the messaging:

Learn here. Earn more.

Direct and simple, it mirrors Aston’s reputation of being ‘business-like and getting things done’, as well as speaking to the ‘ruthless ambition’ of the students it attracts.

The campaign used graduate success stories to back up the messaging, which was further reinforced by the credibility of the Economist statistic.

The creative was bold, direct and put the stars of those stories on billboards and across a variety of outdoor media in the Midlands. The campaign was supported by a suite of digital communications, which included stories, written by myself, and video.

Creative execution and placement

Thomas Street, Birmingham

Out of home ads created by Kyle Campbell.jpg

Generic out-of-home network

Outdoor display ads in Birmingham.jpg


Ads produced by Kyle Campbell in the Bullring.jpg

Ad on the Aston Expressway

Ad on the Aston Express Way.jpg

Birmingham City Centre