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Behind the scenes with Barry the Platypus

Posted on 11 Jun 2014 by Gill Fleming

Some of you may have seen that our latest television advert is back on the box.  Whilst it was off air we won a bronze award at the British Arrows Television Advertising Awards held last month, all thanks to a playful platypus named Barry!

Barry is the name of the CGI animation character developed for our latest advertising campaign for television, as we were looking to reinvigorate the first direct brand and appeal to a younger audience.

The whole campaign signalled a big departure for us from previous adverts so we’re delighted that the team at advertising agency JWT have been recognised with this award, as well as two silver awards from Campaign Big and The Creative Circle.

Our marketing team worked with JWT to develop the new campaign, which freshens our image and reminds our customers why first direct is brilliantly different from the high street banks.

The ad features Barry, a talking platypus, who was created using CGI animation and walks the streets of east London and winds up sitting at a bar stool, telling the audience about his love for vintage vinyl.

Developing his character with CGI animation was a four and a half month process, working with a team of Oscar–winning animators to carefully create a virtual skeleton and place fur on top of it. The animation team then had to work on getting his beak and walk right, and to gesticulate in the right way as a highly realistic speaking platypus.

Filmed on Colombia Road in east London, home to a famous weekly flower market, the commercial takes a quirky trail along the street, narrated by Barry.

The idea for this advert, our third since 2007, came from JWT’s creative director Jason Berry, as we sought to appeal to a younger audience and get young people to start thinking about first direct as innovative and different.

Of the creative ideas that JWT presented to this time, our marketing team fell immediately for Barry, an animated personified platypus and strange hybrid creature who speaks with a soft Yorkshire accent and famously delivers the on-screen line:

“I like things a bit offbeat me, so I bank with first direct .”

“Along this journey of the street that the platypus takes, he observes moments that illustrate the points he’s making about the bank, like the ease of service when the [restaurant] table lays itself magically - that just shows you how good they are at looking after people,” says Jason.

Coming up with the original concept for this advert we started by thinking about what first direct stands for and its core values, and came up with three main strands to our identity:

Firstly, service values as the heart and soul of the bank, secondly recognition of the individuality first direct customers have, and finally challenger values, happy to be different and slightly apart from the norm.

Developing Barry’s personality was another challenge, giving his platypus-form the right ambling movements that make up his irreverent character as he chats to those he comes across on the street and talks about first direct .

Overall we’ve set out to do something different from the usual financial services ads and Barry’s very expressive of our individualistic nature.

We knew we were onto something good with Barry, and winning these creative awards is a great reward for the team’s hard work. The main thing for us of course has been the public reaction and social media sentiment, which has been overwhelmingly positive.

We have started to think about our next advertising campaign but we’d like to keep Barry in some form, as he’s become a beloved member of the first direct family.

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