Same old Virgin Atlantic or a well-aimed shot at BA?

You know what you’re going to get from Virgin Atlantic advertising, leggy models in red shoes impersonating cabin staff from the days when ‘trolley dollies’ was an accurate way to describe them.

And you would expect no less from Sir Richard Branson’s airline, Branson after all is the kind of guy whose ideal woman is Pamela Anderson (aside from Lady Branson of course). Here’s the latest instalment:

But everything isn’t rosy in Branson’s capacious Oxfordshire garden, arch enemy BA is getting bigger through its approved merger with Iberia and the merged entity has been given EU approval to work hand in hand with American Airlines, meaning that more valuable slots at London’s Heathrow will be in enemy hands.

BA has had its problems too of course, chiefly a series of disputes with trade union Unite over staff pay and conditions. The airline’s pugnacious boss Irishman Willie Walsh has faced these down with a lot of help from his lawyers (Unite doesn’t seem to have any) but the overriding impression is of an airline staffed by people who would much prefer to be somewhere else.

So highlighting Virgin Atlantic’s welcoming lovelies is actually on strategy this time as well as in tune with the boss’s predilections.

And at least Virgin manages to produce some advertising, through RKCR Y&R. BA has signally failed to produce anything resembling a decent campaign, or even a campaign at all, since it moved the business from M&C Saatchi to BBH. Either Willie won’t spend the money or the agency can’t deliver or there’s been just too much bad news around about BA workers to run ads which, somewhere or other, would need to feature a snarling stewardess.

Criticising BBH (and the lack of ads may not be its fault) is a bit like kicking the cat at the moment, given its travails. But a stonking new BA campaign would give both agency and client a much-needed lift.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.