Walter Campbell

Creative Futures Revisited: Walter Campbell

For almost 30 years, Creative Review ran a scheme called Creative Futures, celebrating the best and brightest new talent entering the industry. Here, we talk to 1992 almunus Walter Campbell about how his career has progressed in the years since

In 1990, pirate radio station Kiss had been granted its official licence to broadcast legally. It was a big moment, and it needed an impactful launch to go with it. “Everybody asked the same question: ‘What music are you going to put on it?’” recalls creative director Walter Campbell. He and creative partner Tom Carty were pitching with BBDO against London’s other heavyweight agencies and knew the idea had to stand out to “dislodge” the competitors. Since Kiss FM was home to a range of genres, he realised it would likely be difficult for the station to agree as to what kind of music would best represent the station, particularly at this pivotal stage. Campbell’s solution? Don’t use any music at all.

Around the time he was pitching for that spot, Campbell was weighing up saving for a car or buying a Sony video camera. He went with the camera. It was a worthy investment since it allowed him to go into presentations with the ideas already shot, something he believes helped him win the work.

Directed by Patricia Murphy, the resulting spot showed clips of people dancing silently before an instruction appeared: ‘Find out what they’re dancing to. Tune your radio to 100 FM.’ The line featured on the side of trucks that had transparent walls showing people dancing inside, which toured around London as part of the launch. It was clearly working: “You could see people changing their radio stations in their cars,” Campbell says. In just a few months, Kiss FM smashed through its yearly listener targets.

“That’s one of the best-selling thoughts I’ve had,” reflects Campbell. While he says people consider him to be someone who “likes to do these flights of fancy”, turning a message into results is a genuine goal, something he’d been honing since his early days selling pots and pans on a market stall – an experience that taught him “the importance of stopping people”.