An online viral campaign promoting luxury holiday destination Vilara as the "perfect destination – because chavs don’t know where it is" has been revealed as a marketing push by Southampton-based agency Lawton.
Tim John, creative director of Lawton, says: "It’s been fascinating to see just how quickly a viral campaign can build a brand on a global basis. Bands, film titles and computer games have captured audiences with these techniques and it’s exciting to think that the travel sector can do it too, even with an invented product."
Far from being a real resort, Vilara is an anagram of "a viral". The campaign started with a teaser ad in the travel trade press on January 19, directing people to the website www.vilara.eu. The site introduces Vilara as "a home for the haves and the have-yachts. A world away from the everyday," and also features a short viral film in which various Chav characters – many wearing Bur-berry check baseball caps – are asked if they have heard of it. Their reactions vary from bemused to aggressive and obscene.
John says the site has had more than 6,000 hits from 80 countries. The viral film is now appearing on many blog and viral sites.
Lawton’s clients include Sunsail, Hayes & Jarvis, Red Funnel, Brittany Ferries and Celebrity Cruises. Its invention of Vilara is in a long tradition of marketing agencies and media companies creating fake brands to promote their services. Nearly 20 years ago, UK outdoor media company More O’Ferrall Adshel famously ran an ad campaign for an Australian perfume called Sheila, with the strapline "Also kills flies," as part of a research campaign to prove the efficacy of bus shelter advertising. Awareness of the campaign reached 59% after four weeks.