Virgin Media
Virgin Media

Adwatch Review: Virgin Media

LONDON - Tom Morton, executive planning director at TBWA Media Arts London, reviews the latest Virgin Media TV commercial

The action is changing for Virgin's mobile phone business. Ten years ago, the brand launched as a value operator.

It morphed into a successful youth brand with a mix of user-friendly packages and irreverent branding, and rolled out the formula in the US and Australian markets. Now, as content and apps replace voice and text traffic, Virgin Media returns to our screens to tout its mobile entertainment content offer.

In the first TV ad of the campaign, a tousle-haired member of the target audience enlivens his train journey with his Virgin smartphone. After he switches on the handset, the carriage leaps with the arrival of a hot girl, his mates, a rock band and a troop of Special Forces soldiers. It promises ‘a world of entertainment on your Virgin Mobile. Powerful stuff'.

The advertising is standard mobile marketing gloss. Ethereal music? Check. Entertainment literally jumping from the handset? Roger that. Flabby overclaim? ‘A world...' certainly qualifies. I wonder whether the Chinese factories that produce the components for handsets now churn out their campaigns as well.

The Virgin brand deserves something more original than this. It was original when Orange and Sony did it at the beginning of the decade; now it's common practice from Nokia and Blackberry. If bigger brands all follow this approach, Virgin won't take share from them by following it.

It's a needlessly distant way to package the product. Media and content don't need moody metaphors to sell them; they can speak for themselves. Apple sold 5m iPhones last quarter by pushing its apps. 

Channel 4 lets its stars and its content do the talking. Virgin has always been able to harness the humour and stars of the entertainment world to reach people, but not here. Virgin's mobile entertainment proposition has not yet reached the ground. There's no sign of the promised entertainment content on the brand's website.

The strategy is as generic as the creative. Where's the difference in product or service? Virgin brands have always offered a fun, customer-champion alternative. Perhaps Virgin Mobile needs a fresh way of packaging content, or a streaming service.

Perhaps it needs a more innovative way to connect the proposition with its audience. Perhaps it needs to take on its glossy corporate competitors, rather than aping them.

The brand deserves better, and the public deserves a break.