Media Lifeline: The Virgin brand

campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 10 August 2007 12:00AM

The once-cool challenger brand has taken knocks to its public image in most areas of its business recently.

10 July 2007: A month is a long time in the life of a squeaky clean challenger uber-brand - as we begin to appreciate as Virgin Trains suffers a humiliating blow, losing the Cross Country rail franchise, the backbone of which runs from Penzance to Aberdeen, to the rival rail company Arriva. Arriva, a relative newcomer to the rail business, had promised to make the franchise run more efficiently. The changeover is scheduled to take place in November.

26 July 2007: Virgin Mobile reveals it is to dump its much-vaunted five-channel mobile TV service - after less than a year - due to lack of consumer interest. It launched in October 2006 backed by a £2.5 million ad campaign fronted by Pamela Anderson.

27 July 2007: Now tragedy strikes at the Mojave Air and Space port when SpaceShip Two, a spacecraft being developed as the flagship of Sir Richard Branson's visionary Virgin Galactic project, blows up during testing, killing three workers. Virgin Galactic aims to provide sub-orbital trips to space tourists, beginning in 2009.

1 August 2007: A knocking copy ad from Virgin Media is banned by the Advertising Standards Authority after complaints that it made misleading comparisons between its services and those of BSkyB. The two are still locked in a long-running dispute over carriage charges, with several of Sky's channels, including Sky One, not available on Virgin's cable platform. Virgin has struggled to portray itself as the innocent party in this dispute.

2 August 2007: British Airways is fined £270 million by the US Department of Justice for colluding with Virgin Atlantic to fix prices. Virgin is to escape punishment for the time being because its legal team blew the whistle on the illegal pact between the two companies.

Fast forward ...

18 August 2007: The V Festival kicks off at its two venues, Weston Park and Hylands Park. It rains. Heavily. In both locations. The Killers all have heavy headcolds. Kasabian's instruments keep sliding out of tune. The Fratellis and Snow Patrol are rubbish. Then Branson is bottled as he gets up on stage at Weston to reason with a slightly less-than-mellow crowd. The Proclaimers, though, are brilliant, as they always are.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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