Wilbur the penguin 'retires' as British Gas steps away from animated work

British Gas: Wilbur has returned to Antarctica
British Gas: Wilbur has returned to Antarctica

Wilbur has been brand mascot since 2015.

British Gas has launched a campaign following the lives of real-life customers, but long-term mascot Wilbur the penguin is nowhere to be seen.

Created by The & Partnership London and comprising two 60-second spots, the "Here to solve" campaign showcases the debilitating effects that a broken boiler, blown fuse box or a leak can have on a home.

While "Kitchen" follows a couple’s cooking life, from spilled dishes and empty milk cartons to malfunctioning washing machines, "Bathroom" showcases a young family’s hectic routine from the perspective of a mum. Both sets of characters encounter maintenance problems that are quickly resolved by British Gas staff.

The TV spots launch today (2 February) and are supported by cinema, radio, out-of-home, social media and digital activity until April.

The work was created by Kate Allsop and Howard Green, and directed by Simon Ratigan through HLA. Media is handled by Team Nucleus, the WPP team comprising The & Partnership, MediaCom and Wunderman Thompson that won the integrated account for British Gas parent Centrica last year.

As for the absence of an animated penguin, Jill Dougan, marketing director at British Gas, told Campaign that Wilbur has "retired" from his role, wih a press release claiming that the character has "decided it was time to spend more quality time with his family in Antarctica".

First introduced in 2015’s "Warm and working", Wilbur was credited with making British Gas' communications more "emotionally engaging" by Margaret Jobling, now chief marketing officer at Centrica. Wilbur has since become a cornerstone of the brand's campaigns.

"Wilbur has been a huge part of the company for the last five years. He brought a warmth and humour that we didn't have as a 'big six' energy provider," Dougan said.

"I hope these ads can still make customers smile and can connect with our audiences without an animated penguin."

Dougan added that British Gas will be giving a proper farewell to Wilbur via social media, with the brand set to release a video of the penguin heading off into the sunset on his signature moped.

She continued: "This campaign is about us really being in service to our customers and repositioning the brand as really understanding what they need and what they want. Modern life is hectic, it's crazy and, actually, customers just want us to be there when something goes wrong."

Last year, British Gas experimented with working outside animation in "Two sides of the story", which focused on the hidden struggles of unpaid carers across Britain.

Micky Tudor, executive creative director at The & Partnership London, added: "We wanted to show how your bathroom is one of the most emotional places there is. It’s deeply private, fun, weird, tender, crazy, loving and peaceful all at the same time. Same with your kitchen. And at the heart of them both is British Gas – there to keep the emotion flowing."

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