Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays launch first joint ad campaign, but brands will be ‘cousins not sisters’

The companies are joining forces for the first time with a new TV campaign to increase media efficiency and get more “bang for our buck”.

Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays are launching new marketing campaigns aligning creative for the first time in a bid to increase efficiency.

The campaigns will include two separate TV adverts, created by the same agency AMV BBDO, that will launch in the same ad break during The X Factor on Saturday (15 September). The ads, while different in scope, have noticeable similarities.

Virgin Holidays uses dream-like visuals of holiday destinations including a Las Vegas strip inside a pinball machine, while Virgin Atlantic depicts a surreal in-flight experience with rainbow ice cream dispensed from the ceiling of the cabin and a boy tap dancing on the ceiling.

Clare Cronin, CMO of Virgin Atlantic, tells Marketing Week: “We really wanted to get more visual symmetry because we don’t have massive budgets so for us to stand out we need the two brands to stand together.

“We are both massively outgunned in our category. British Airways spends 10 times more than we do, TUI spends ridiculous amounts. We’re trying to stay top of mind by really focusing on the thing that makes us unique, the experience, while also getting more bang for our buck.”

However, there are differences in the campaigns. For example, the two brands won’t be using the same taglines with Virgin Atlantic using ‘Depart the Everyday’, while Virgin Holidays will use ‘The World is your Playground’.

“It was important to work out how close the two [brands] would be. We wanted to work out how close we should be creatively. Are we cousins, sisters, twins?”, says Virgin Holidays’ marketing and customer director, Amber Kirby.

In the end the two brands settled on cousins – clearly related but noticeably different. They will also be buying more media together, evolving a strategy that already sees them buy digital advertising across the two brands.

READ MORE: How Virgin Holidays is going beyond bookings to ‘inspire change’

Bringing the brands to life

Kirby says the idea of the Virgin Holidays ad was to move away from the idea of selling packages. She explains: “People don’t realise that Virgin Holidays don’t really sell packages they sell holidays and you can make it in any which way you want that is directly targeted to your needs and what kind of person you are.“

Virgin Atlantic, meanwhile, wanted to showcase its brand identity while also differentiating it from a growing number of competitors.

“It’s deliberately very playful and whimsical and bringing this beautiful world to life at 38,000 feet in the way we think only Virgin can,” Cronin says.  “We went for pink because we wanted to elevate the colour red and to punctuate the scene.

“In the airline category we’ve seen lots of other brands come into our territory. Whether its Norwegian Air or American Airlines, everything has gone to red with white typography and it looks like us, so we are trying to move the boundaries again.”

Cronin has worked at Virgin for a number of years, previously as the marketing boss at Virgin Holidays, but Kirby only joined Virgin in March, meaning the companies had just five months from pitch to launching the campaign. Yet despite the tight time frame, intense research was paramount to the campaign from the concept to the colour palette.

The campaign is also trying to appeal to a broad demographic, something which is reflected in the creative with people from a variety of different ethnicities, ages and sexualities featured.

Cronin explains: “We have empty nesters, families, millennials who are just travelling by themselves to see friends and family. We are an inclusive brand and want to be for everybody – there is no cherry picking.”

The campaign aims to attract first-time customers with a target of a 5% increase in people flying with Virgin Atlantic.

We’re trying to stay top of mind by really focusing on the thing that makes us unique, the experience, while also getting more bang for our buck.

Claire Cronin, Virgin Atlantic

Ultimately, “success looks like sales,” Cronin says. “We want to see a big increase in our brand awareness and people clearly taking out that we are an experience-led brand. If they really believe that they’ll buy the product.

“We’ve got an iconic brand that people love and we’re using this surreal campaign to entertain customers because ultimately as Richard Branson said: ‘We are entertainment company not a transportation and logistics one’.”

The ‘pressure’ to invest in digital

Virgin Atlantic’s last TV campaign ran in 2015 and Cronin says its brand metrics have suffered as a result. She believes the brand over-invested in mid-funnel and digital spend because of an emphasis on return on investment, something which Cronin says was a mistake.

When she ran econometrics, it showed that Virgin Atlantic should be spending 40% of its budget in TV. This campaign it will spend 30% with the aim to increase this to 40% next year.

She explains: “I think there is a pressure on CMOs to invest in digital because ultimately it is very trackable so it inspires CFO’s confidence.

“There is the famous quote, ‘Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half’ but when you spend on digital you do know where it’s wasted but that doesn’t mean you can’t waste on digital channels. It doesn’t mean digital isn’t important but ultimately we are trying to grow and get more customers to consider flying with us and TV is key to that.