Virgin swaps Uma for Ruby Wax as subscriber battle with Sky hots up

Virgin Media is ditching Hollywood actress Uma Thurman as the face of its advertising in favour of comedienne Ruby Wax in an attempt to revitalise its relaunch.

The cable company spent £20m on Thurman-fronted ads to herald its rebranding from the troubled NTL and Telewest brands. However, insiders suggest that the Rapier-created campaign, which was targeted at young male audiences, is failing to deliver.

They say Thurman is unlikely to be re-signed, although work already created may be used again. Virgin has a history of using celebrities in its advertising but Wax marks its most middle-of-the-road signing, leading to suggestions that the company is pursuing a more populist strategy.

Kate Moss and Christina Aguilera, who fronted Virgin Mobile ads, and Kill Bill star Thurman were considered edgy and youth-focused.

The company will announce first quarter results today (Wednesday), its first set since February’s relaunch and Virgin will be under pressure to prove it can expand subscriber numbers following better-than-expected results by satellite rival BSkyB last week. Sky added a net 51,000 new customers in the past three months: almost double City expectations.

The two companies have been embroiled in an increasingly bitter battle over carriage of certain Sky channels on the cable platform, with Virgin Media submitting a 33-page complaint to the High Court.

The Wax-fronted campaign, created by Rapier, will cover TV, press, radio and direct mail. It aims to promote the cable company’s bundled services plus the home phone service Talk Anywhere. Manning Gottlieb OMD carried out media planning and buying.

NTL merged with Virgin Mobile last year in a £961m deal which created the UK’s first “quadruple play” media company, offering mobile phones and broadband as well as fixed line telephones and television.

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