Paul Silburn's greatest hits: from John Smith's to John West

Silburn was creative brain behind some of adland's most popular spots.

John West: Silburn was called 'one of the best writers in the history of our business'
John West: Silburn was called 'one of the best writers in the history of our business'

Paul Silburn, a senior creative director at Bartle Bogle Hegarty who passed away last week, has been heralded as one of the greatest creative writers and leaders of his generation.

As tributes pour in for Silburn, who worked at some of the best-known agencies in the UK, including Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson, Leo Burnett, Leith London, TBWA\London and Saatchi & Saatchi, Campaign takes a look at some of his most celebrated – and decorated – campaigns.

John West 'Bear'

This spot – featuring a kung fu-fighting bear and a John West fisherman – is one of the most famous viral ad campaigns of all time. An early example of how to harness social media, it was launched in 2000 and quickly became one of the most widely downloaded and shared ads of all time and won a gold Lion at Cannes.

John Smith's 'No nonsense'

The "No nonsense" series for John Smith's featuring Peter Kay (who was at the height of his Phoenix Nights fame at the time) was widely awarded – including winning this very publication's Campaign of the Year award and gold at Cannes Lions in 2003.

Stella Artois 'Reassuringly expensive'

This multi-award-winning work rocketed Stella Artois' "Reassuringly expensive" brand message to life in 1998, using beautiful production and humour.

T-Mobile 'The T-Mobile dance'

Another multi-award-winning campaign, this 2009 ad was filmed at London Waterloo station and featured seemingly ordinary commuters breaking out in a flash mob. It has been viewed more than 41 million times on YouTube.

EE 'Kevin Bacon explains 4G'

Silburn created this spot to promote the launch of the EE brand in the UK in 2012, signing up Kevin Bacon to drive brand awareness. 

British Airways and Comic Relief 'Airline safety video'

In 2017, British Airways needed to promote its partnership with Comic Relief and update its old-fashioned safety video – so Silburn brought some of the UK's biggest celebrities together in an ad that has been viewed more than 13 million times online.

Wall's 'Talking dog'

Silburn resurrected the talking dog character from earlier Wall's ads – but in a quirky way. Based on the insight that men sometimes find it hard to express their feelings, the 2011 campaign let the dog do the talking.

Direct Line 'Winston Wolf'

How do you differentiate an insurance company from the rest of the pack? Sign up a fixer from Pulp Fiction to promote the idea that the brand is always useful at the point of need. This series has been running since 2014.

Scalextric 'It's a boy thing'

From 1998, this spot aimed its messaging at dads to encourage them to play (and buy) Scalextric for their children. It featured a new parent who obviously wished he had a son.

BBC iPlayer 'Flying penguins' 

This tricked national newspapers into believing that penguins could fly in 2008. The video was created to promote the BBC iPlayer – and bring to life its "Making the unmissable unmissable" brand messaging.

Visa 'Life flows better'

To promote the idea that using Visa makes your life more seamless, this beautifully directed film from 2009 featured performance artist Bill Shannon.

Become a member of Campaign

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to, plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events.

Become a member

What is Campaign AI?

Our new premium service offering bespoke monitoring reports for your company.

Find out more

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an alert now

Partner content