Channel 4’s Nathan Barley Campaign: it’s well weapon

If you’re a regular user of the London Underground, you will probably have seen the recent poster campaign for an unlikely mobile device called the Wasp T12. I was particularly intrigued by the headline. Apparently, the phone or gaming machine or whatever the hell is featured in the ad is ‘well weapon’.

The heart of this 36-year-old copywriter sank immediately. What future is there for an ad man unfamiliar with such scary street vernacular? I just had to visit to find out more. (And, yes, you did read it correctly. That’s On the site, there’s a chance to explore an alarming amount of technical detail on the T12. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find evidence of a highly sophisticated marketing campaign for the new Chris Morris sitcom, Nathan Barley, due to air on 11th February. The show centres around a young guy working in new media and the trailers are viewable online. It’s the kind of thing that will only truly make sense when we’ve seen the first episode. But I know that Channel 4 has already attracted at least one viewer.

Although completely different in content and tone, the spirit of the Barley campaign is very similar to the work being done for Volvo with the Mystery of Dalaro and the Life on Board Project. It’s difficult to find new and original ways of promoting TV shows and cars, but intriguing, slow-build multimedia campaigns often have a strong viral effect. I’ve told a number of people about Barley already, for instance. The website becomes the hub of the campaign, because it’s so easy to pass around links via e-mail.

Chris Morris is a highly controversial figure and I’ve no doubt that this sitcom will cause a bit of media stir. In the meantime, I’ve ordered my Wasp and plan to stream the programme direct to my handset.

Copyright Phil Woodford, 2005. All rights reserved.

Phil Woodford is an advertising creative director and lecturer.