MEDIA: STRATEGY OF THE WEEK - Virgin Mobile shows its customers behaving badly

Gruesome tongue piercing lifted this campaign out of the ordinary, Ian Darby says.

Creating a media strategy to support a retail promotion is usually a solid, even dull, task.

But when you're armed with footage of a female contortionist and of a man hammering a kebab skewer through his tongue into a shop counter, then you might be expected to bring things alive in some style.

This was the challenge faced by Virgin Mobile's agencies, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R and Manning Gottlieb OMD, with its "Just show us your phone!" promotion.

Virgin Mobile's brand team developed a promotional idea that it needed both to broadcast and to work in-store. Its idea was to create a loyalty device for its customers, which would take the form of a free £1 airtime voucher for every £10 spent in a Virgin Megastore.

Customers would be asked to flash their phone when they pay to qualify for the gift and this formed the basis of the creative and media strategy.

Rainey Kelly decided that it could focus attention on the promotion by developing creative featuring people behaving outrageously in Virgin Megastores to get their free airtime. The ads point out that such behaviour is unnecessary with the line: "No. Just show us your phone!"

Virgin Mobile's core audience is under 25 so the media strategy was developed accordingly. Rainey Kelly and Manning Gottlieb decided to invite customers to auditions at a central London Virgin Megastore. They were looking for authentic examples of outrageous behaviour to feature in advertising.

The media agency struck a deal with Kiss 100 to host the event and the radio station flagged up the event and broadcast footage.

Tom Morton, a planning partner at Rainey Kelly, says: "We started wanting to do something in press that would easily convert to in-store. But we decided to take things further with viral films."

Footage included the contortionist misbehaving on a Megastore counter and the gruesome tongue-piercing man. A third performer, juggling ping-pong balls by mouth, also caught the eye.

This footage was then put out as three viral executions, distributed by DMC, rather than on television (for budget and clearance reasons).

Word of mouth has worked to the extent that the "bendy babe" spot tops the chart of Lycos' most viewed viral ads.

The agencies were also tasked with developing in-store and press activity to push the promotion. Start Design worked with Rainey Kelly on creating in-store ideas. Press advertising, featuring a man showing off a third nipple, ran in music, film and gaming titles including Kerrang!, NME and Total Film. Six-sheet posters in proximity to every Virgin Megastore in the UK were bought by Posterscope.

Rob Nicol, a senior planner and buyer at Manning Gottlieb, says: "We wanted to target slightly more rock-focused customers as Virgin Megastore is a very music- and rock-focused distributor."

Manning Gottlieb also set up a deal with Future Publishing that saw Virgin Mobile-branded DVDs on the cover of titles such as Official PlayStation Magazine.

This was a traditional campaign, using the well-trodden press and in-store devices to drive a promotion. However, the creation of a special event, backed by a commercial radio station, and the subsequent viral campaign made it out of the ordinary.

Client: Virgin Mobile

Media: Viral, in-store, on-air radio promotions, outdoor, press

Agencies: Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, Manning Gottlieb OMD,

Posterscope

Media idea: Use viral and editorial tie-ups to appeal to the "difficult

to reach" youth market

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