Virgin Mobile supports text price-cut with £5m

Virgin Mobile is unleashing its biggest-ever ad campaign to back a 3p text tariff - the first change it has made to its flat-rate pay structure in its three-and-a-half year history.

The price-cut signals the network's attempt to corner the text message market, eschewing the temptation to compete on next-generation services such as picture messaging. A large percentage of Virgin Mobile's customers are 16- to 24-year-olds.

A £5m campaign breaks on Friday using the strapline 'The devil makes work for idle thumbs'.

The ads, by Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, mark a departure from recent spots featuring singer Wyclef Jean, and are set in an old Eastern European hospital where bored patients use their thumbs to wreak havoc on fellow patients and nurses.

They are shown repeatedly pressing a light switch on and off, shaving a patient's bushy eyebrows, stapling a nurse's skirt to a desk and pulling her bra strap from behind. The campaign will appear on TV, cinema, press and radio.

The 3p tariff applies to texts to other Virgin customers, but Virgin Mobile has left text charges to other mobile networks static at 10p. According to the Mobile Data Association, nearly 55 million text messages are sent every day in the UK.

The campaign comes as Virgin Mobile steps up its music sponsorship strategy to ally the brand with emerging talent as well as established acts through the V music festival.

It has struck a three-year agreement to be the exclusive mobile partner for McKenzie Group, whose venues include the Shepherds Bush Empire, Brixton Academy, and Barfly, a 200-capacity venue that aims to break unsigned talent.

The firm will promote its sponsorship inside venues and on promotional material with a 'Virgin Mobile Louder' logo and web site at www.virginmobilelouder.com. It is also renaming V this year simply as 'V Festival', rather than V2003.

On Monday Virgin revealed that the network's customer base had risen 54% on last year to 2.64 million. However, it is embroiled in an ongoing legal battle with joint venture partner T-Mobile, after accusing it of "material breaches" of its agreement.

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