IPA Effectiveness Awards 2004: Silver Award - Best New Client (Virgin) - Virgin Trains


Campaign: New Beginning

Client: Virgin Trains

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


Principal authors: Garbhan O'Bric, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R;

Lyndsey Jenkins, Manning Gottlieb OMD; Ioannis Melas, OMD Metrics

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


When, in 1997, Virgin Trains acquired the UK's two largest rail franchises, the Cross Country and West Coast networks, it was promptly engulfed by the public disappointment and cynicism that has long defined travel on British railways.

But worse was to follow. In the following years, Virgin Trains was subjected to a second dose of public hostility as the industry declined still further.

People felt Virgin was failing to deliver on its brand promise. They had hoped for the glitz and glamour that it had liberally sprinkled on air travel to settle on Britain's creaking rail tracks. Or at the very least to see some improvement.

The advertising solution was to focus not on the slow, staggered launch of a new fleet of trains, but on the beginning of a new era. It would not only work to reassure the public that Virgin Trains was now starting to deliver on its promises, but would also signal the brand's intent to improve in the future.

Virgin's agencies also had to be careful to steer clear of the overtly irreverent and brash advertising that defined other Virgin brands.

The campaign has helped Virgin Trains overcome negative perceptions.

It provoked people to perceive Virgin Trains in a more positive light, feel good again about rail travel and, in so doing, generated a revenue increase of more than £62 million, an almost six-fold return on investment.

The judges' view

Virgin's audacious move into the rail travel area brought two potentially competing marketing agendas: to generate sales and to contribute to the credibility of the Virgin brand. This case study painstakingly models the sales return on marketing spend and inventively measures Virgin Trains' contribution to the master brand's reputation.

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