Virgin Media brand campaign begins TV blitz ... except on Sky

TV ads will centre on the services offered as a result of the ntl, Telewest and Virgin Mobile merger.

The Virgin Media brand is finally unleashed on the public this week, with a television ad blitz starring the Hollywood A-lister Uma Thurman.

The campaign, created by Rapier, marks the debut of the company formed by the merger of ntl, Telewest and Virgin Mobile.

In the ads, the Kill Bill star Thurman will demonstrate the benefits of signing up to Virgin Media's offering of pay-TV, telephone and broadband services. One of the spots will show Thurman just about revealing her phone number in New York. In another, she will silently stare out from the screen for ten seconds.

The TV advertising will run across all major stations, with the notable exception of Sky channels, after the broadcaster refused airtime to Virgin Media, according to the managing director for marketing, James Kydd. The media planning has been handled by Goodstuff with Manning Gottlieb OMD looking after the media buying.

The massive push also features a teaser campaign, which has been on TV over the past week. It was created by Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R. There is also a press and poster campaign, by RKCR/Y&R, and an online element by Start Creative.

Virgin Media has been working hard to bring ntl's notoriously bad customer service up to standard before sticking its iconic red logo above the door. It will also be keen to avoid the problems that have plagued Orange since it rebranded the ISP Wanadoo and ended up with thousands of dissatisfied customers on both its internet and mobile offerings.

Looking closer to home, it also has the chastening experience of the Virgin Trains rebrand to take lessons from.

Kydd points out that Virgin had no choice but to put its logo on the trains from day one, despite the fact that it was ordering new rolling stock and would have preferred to wait. "The trains are now the great success story," Kydd claims. "But it has taken a long time."

Yet, when it comes to branding, Virgin has more hits than misses. The Virgin Mobile advertising heritage includes a series of famous spots created by RKCR/Y&R and featuring Kate Moss and Christina Aguilera.

As well as getting the problems with ntl's customer service sorted out, Kydd has his eye on what is going on at his new rival - Sky. The companies have already locked horns over the fate of ITV, with Sky buying a 17.9 per cent stake in the broadcaster in order to scupper a takeover offer from ntl.

At the time of writing, the Department of Trade and Industry was deciding if the Sky shareholding would be investigated on the grounds of anti-competitive behaviour.

Far from being worried, Kydd seems to relish the prospect of a good fight, joking that if the pay-TV arena were the Celebrity Big Brother house, "there's no doubt who would be the Jade Goody figure".


BT Vision - Launched December, marketing push due this spring

Tiscali TV - Launches 1 March

Sky TV - Launched "see speak surf" campaign in January.


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