Virgin Atlantic: Private View TV - Gerry Moira

What do the following agencies have in common? Still Price Court Twivy D'Sousa; Woollams Moira Gaskin O'Malley; Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow Johnson. Well, yes they're all dead, but also they all enjoyed fleeting tenure of the Virgin Atlantic account. Coincidence? I think not, inspector.

By far Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe's greatest achievement on this demanding piece of business is retaining it. Of course, the agency has done some fine work along the way but few at the outset would have predicted so long a relationship.

It has never been easy persuading Britain's favourite entrepreneur that his airline actually needs advertising. Richard Branson only has to step into a balloon or a frock or just languidly stretch a condom over his head to generate millions of pounds worth of press and TV coverage. Fortunately, there's a difference between brand-building and mere publicity and the Virgin Atlantic brand had two very powerful things going for it. First, Upper Class is a terrific and consistently innovative product. Second, it had BA. You only need to witness the speed with which America has replaced the Cold War Soviet threat with an Islamo-fascist terrorist one to appreciate the importance of having an enemy without.

If BA hadn't existed, Virgin would have had to invent it.

Despite Virgin's positioning as the People's Champ, not much of its TVbudget has ever been pointed at the back of the plane. One noticeable exception being the Grim Reaper spot of 1997. This Bergmanesque story of a young man who cheats death as his action-packed, fun-filled life takes hours to flash before his eyes has spawned a thousand imitators.

The real battle between Virgin and BA has been over the hearts, minds and bums of the corporate flier. Virgin has always targeted the un-buttoned-down, non-pin-striped businessman. For me, the most successful conduit to this elusive group was Terence Stamp. As John Schlesinger and I know from experience, Terry is not the easiest actor to direct but in this series he is a devastating prosecutor of BA's short-comings in the leg-room and hassle-free check-in departments. The agency's search for iconoclastic icons moved on to 50 feistysomething Helen Mirren.

I guess everyone over 35 can remember where they stood on Helen's legs.

Were they really hers or did they belong to a more-shapely stand-in? There was a scurrilous rumour that Ms Mirren's own legs belonged in the Hillary Clinton/Helena Bonham-Carter/Bechstein/Steinway/Jason Leonard category.

Personally, I cannot, will not, believe there is a part of Ms Mirren that is not perfect in every way. This blind confidence does not extend to her successor Malcolm McLaren, the ginger entrepreneur. Alternative he may be, but lacking, surely, the cool integrity of Tel and Hel. Iggy Pop was a better bet (and better script), although I doubt whether half the target market had the foggiest idea of who he was. Of course, the fact that Iggy has stopped lacerating himself with razor blades has made the prospect of sitting next to him non-stop to LA not nearly as intimidating as it once was.

RKCR remade the Mirren spots with Miss Piggy but the Muppet campaign just didn't have the same legs and Virgin adopted a more oblique use of personality presenters.

The latest of these features the biggest flat bed in business class and takes as its dramatic theme the notion of Beauty Sleep. This is a nice idea, well-made with a good Alice Cooper-related gag that doesn't require the presence of the venerable rocker in person. An economy of which Mr Branson would no doubt approve.

- Gerry Moira will work for free tickets.

HELEN MIRREN - Legs (1995)

Writer: Robert Campbell

Art director: Mark Roalfe

Director: Jeff Stark

Production company: Stark Films

Exposure: Terrestrial TV

TERENCE STAMP - Chauffeur (1994)

Writer: Robert Campbell

Art director: Mark Roalfe

Director: Jeff Stark

Production company: Stark Films

Exposure: Terrestrial TV

IGGY POP (2001)

Writer: Robert Campbell

Art director: Mark Roalfe

Director: Jeff Stark

Production company: Stark Films

Exposure: Satellite and terrestrial TV

MISS PIGGY (2001)

Writer: Robert Campbell

Art director: Mark Roalfe

Director: Jeff Stark

Production company: Stark Films

Exposure: Satellite and terrestrial TV

MALCOLM MCLAREN (2000)

Writer: Robert Campbell

Art director: Mark Roalfe

Director: Jeff Stark

Production company: Stark Films

Exposure: Satellite and terrestrial TV

GRIM REAPER (1997)

Writer: Richard Beesening

Art director: Andy Blood

Creative directors: Robert Campbell, Mark Roalfe

Director: Frank Budgen

Production company: Gorgeous

Exposure: Terrestrial TV and cinema

BEAUTY SLEEP (2003)

Writer: Mike Boles

Art director: Jerry Hollens

Creative directors: Robert Campbell, Mark Roalfe

Director: Danny Kleinman

Production company: Large Corp

Exposure: Satellite and terrestrial TV

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