Virgin Media marketing chief James Kydd has defended the company’s advertising strategy after the decision to replace Hollywood actress Uma Thurman with Ruby Wax was branded “desperate”.
The struggling cable operator, which last week announced it had lost almost 47,000 customers in the first three months of 2007, is replacing the £25m launch campaign featuring Thurman with four new TV ads starring comedienne Wax (MW last week).
But industry sources have criticised the Thurman campaign for looking “old and tired” and the decision to turn to Wax, who has previously appeared in ads for Vauxhall, the BBC and Tesco, has raised eyebrows.
One source says: “Virgin has failed to differentiate itself from the competition and the Ruby Wax campaign looks a little bit desperate.”
However, Kydd claims the Thurman activity has helped Virgin achieve an 80% awareness – three times higher than that of NTL. “This has been the quickest awareness building campaign I can think of by any brand,” he adds. “It has not been a failure – it is one of the most successful ever.”
The Wax ads will focus on Virgin’s telephony business, which lost a net 63,400 subscribers in the first quarter of this year and was the main reason for the overall decline in group customers.
Kydd says: “Ruby Wax is a particularly good fit for the new campaign because she is talkative and in your face. She is Virgin-like, has attitude and a high likeability factor.”
Ads that have already been shot featuring Thurman may still be used but Kydd admits Virgin will then move on to keep the brand “fresh”.