Virgin’s red hot 25 year ad (very late)

A very belated post on Virgin Airlines 25th Anniversary ad. Thanks to Ehab from Mars for sending me the info… sorry it took so long to write it up. The ad re-creates the UK of 1984, showing a bevvy of red-hot Virgin hostesses bringing some va-va-voom into the world of flying.

Screen shot 2010-07-08 at 09.51.05
Now, first of all, hats off to Virgin for managing to do an anniversary ad that is red-hot, not deadly dull. This really is a bit of marketing genius. The team who made it had balls of titanium, as they blew £800,000 on the production… and aired it… 3 times. Huh?! How does that work…

Well, let's start with the results, as explained by Paul Dickinson of Virgin:

– ROI was £15 for every £1 spent

– 700,000+ searches on Google

– 100,000 hits on website

– Number of people searching for the Virgin name increased + 500%

– Highest ever rating as an airline for business and leisure 

Bloody hell. A really great example of SMS marketing (Sell More Stuff).

So, why was this campaign red hot?

1. Incredibly Distinctive: the red-dressed Virgin hostesses are a dramatic, memorable and they are a highly distinctive bit of branding. They cleverly symbolise Virgin as a more entertaining and fun way to fly. The genius is the way Virgin show this rather than telling us. There is no heavy-handed voice over saying "25 years ago we changed flying for ever…". 

2. Brand is the star: I love the way that the brand is totally integrated into the ad. All the drama is on the impact the Virgin hostesses make. There is a clever "side-by-side" comparison to make an ex-P&G man proud, by contrasting the red-hot Virgin ladies with the stiff and stuffy hostesses from another airline. They even have a hard-sell bit of dialogue at the end, introduced with humour so it just slips into your head:

First guy (looking at the luck Virgin pilot): "I need to change my job"


Screen shot 2010-07-08 at 10.06.35
3. Fantastic execution: this is one of those bits of pure advertising magic where the agency have beautifully orchestrated everything, from the casting to the music to the props to the direction. What is so clever is the way they have re-created so many props of 1984, tapping into the nostalgia factor of many people in their 40's who are now in the core target for business flying in particular. It not only looks back though, its saying to these people (like me): "Why fly boring BA when you could fly Virgin?"

I'm just off to check if Virgin fly to Johannesburg, back in a jiffy….

…. they do!

4. Staff engagement: my guess is that the ad did a great job of engaging staff. Virgin have good levels of staff engagement and retention, even though they pay a lot less than BA. This is because people working there are proud of the brand and service they deliver. This ad must have reinforced this sense of pride, and feeling that they are part of something special.

You can watch the whole ad by clicking below if you're on the blog, or here on youtube.

In conclusion, to create re-hot communication, make your brand the star of a compelling, dramatic story and use brand properties to be distinctive. And be brave and invest in commercial production as it can pay off in the long run.