IPA Effectiveness Awards 2004: Gold Award - Best Presentation/Best New Client (Virgin)


Campaign: Brand

Client: Virgin Mobile Telecomms Ltd

Agency: Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R

Principal authors: Tom Morton, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R; Sherree

Halliwell, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R

Media used: TV, print, outdoor, interactive, radio, cinema, ambient,

viral, press


Never a company to shirk a challenge, Virgin decided to enter the mobile telecoms market in 1999, when competition between the four networks was vicious and a jungle of prices and promotions was confusing consumers.

Virgin Mobile launched on the back of One2One, piggybacking its network and selling, packaging, marketing and servicing its airtime under the Virgin brand. Its strategy, true to the Virgin corporate ethos, was to be the people's champion, the knight in shining armour, bringing simplicity and humanity to a market that had forgotten the customer in its drive to expand. Richard Branson summed up the launch: "No catches. No line rental. No rip off."

With an advertising budget of less than 3 per cent of total market spend, Virgin set about asserting why it was different from, and better than, its rivals with confrontational, engaging advertising that young people would react to. Its edgy, funny commercial featuring Wyclef Jean, compared with T-Mobile's corporate rebranding effort fronted by Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi, is just one example of how the network made space for itself in a crowded market. The company has built a four-million-customer business in four years, overcoming the financial clout and technological advantages of bigger establishment networks. As the rest of the market has slowed down, Virgin Mobile has grown into a £458 million business.

The judges' view

An impeccably presented case of how Virgin challenged conventions in the mobile phone market. Using its parent network as a "control", the paper isolates the specific contribution of the brand, and brand communications, to Virgin's spectacular success in denting a market that it was late to enter.

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