From Barclaycard to Moneysupermarket, epic visuals can make a campaign soar
A view from Paul Troy

From Barclaycard to Moneysupermarket, epic visuals can make a campaign soar

Too many brands make the mistake of treating video like radio, and ignore the real power of the medium, writes the former chief marketing officer of Confused.com.

As a teenager, I watched an inordinate amount of television, watching every major UK and US series from Only Fools and Horses to Friends.

The only club I joined at school was a film club watching iconic movies like Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Directors like Scott had a career in advertising before graduating to movies.

This overindulgence developed my visual brain, which helps whenever I’m looking at new brand advertising or content ideas. So with hindsight my TV time was time well spent.

Ridley Scott has continued to impress with Gladiator, where in the opening scene he established Russell Crowe as a leader we respect and would die for in just a few minutes of film.

That’s the power of visual imagery – to engage and persuade people, so getting them to buy your product or service should be relatively easier.

I often say TV is a visual medium. People think I’m stating the obvious however I so often see clients treat it like radio, expecting a voiceover to do the heavy lifting. It won’t.

Let me tell you a story to illustrate this point. At Barclaycard, I worked with Bartle Bogle Hegarty and we had decided to move away from celebrity and comedy (Rowan Atkinson still cast a long shadow).

The new brief was all about simplicity evidenced by contactless payment. After many scripts, a creative team, Gaz and Wes, said "imagine if payment was as easy as a commute home on a waterslide".

My visual brain could see it straight away. I only had one question: how big could we make it?

These images in visual media such as TV and online worked powerfully as our man glided over buildings and traffic all the way home on his waterslide.

It was a huge business success. It drove every metric – suddenly everything was easier with Barclaycard. The ad received awards: IPA Effectiveness is always worth having, as well as ITV’s "Top 20 ads of the decade" placing us alongside Ridley’s efforts.

However, it opened a new chapter for me, as I discovered visual content is equally powerful online. We had millions of views of that ad on YouTube. More significantly, we made a Waterslide game app that had 19 million downloads, making it the number one free app on iTunes in many countries.

This work opened my eyes wide to online opportunities and in a timely move, Moneysupermarket approached me about sorting out its advertising.

This opened a new online chapter in my career and defined what I do today: helping online start-ups to scale up with a clear strategy, powerfully executed in communications.

Moneysupermarket was a real challenge. A certain meercat and opera singer were well-established, and our Omid Djalili campaign had no real impact.

I had come from Barclaycard where spending was feelgood, so I thought "why not get it from saving money?"

So we set the strategy as being the feelgood you get when you save money.  And saving money was the number one reason for using price comparison, yet no one was talking about it.

I appointed Mother to the task of helping crack this one. Their founder Robert Saville shrewdly saw the opportunity and grabbed it with both hands.

He personally wrote the launch script of the "You’re so Money Supermarket" campaign. The inspiration for the campaign line came from the movie Swingers, where someone says "you’re so money" to a friend.

Interestingly, Mother didn’t write the word "epic" in the original script. We wanted a big credible voice to deliver the end line so enlisted Sir Patrick Stewart, who was a total professional.

The initial end line written by Mother was "awesome", and it didn’t sound right. So I asked Stewart to try "epic" - he delivered, in his Shakespearean-trained voice, like the word was 10 letters long. So it truly sounded epic.

The campaign was a huge success in scaling up the business, with the market value doubling in three years to over a billion. It is no surprise to myself that start-ups and online giants alike use TV to scale up.

This online success led me to work with Confused.com and advise high growth start-ups like betvictor.com, graze.com and paws.com.

When you have experienced success you know what works and the brilliance of online is that you can see those results almost immediately. The power of a big brand idea delivered with striking visual imagery, whatever the media, remains undiminished.

Paul Troy is brand advisor at Confused.com and a member of Campaign’s Power 100