Paul Simons: MAA blast from the past – Virgin ‘Still Red Hot’

Virgin Atlantic (now tottering on the Covid-19 brink) celebrated 25 years of disrupting the airline market, giving BA a kick up the fuselage for years, with this blockbuster from RKCR/Y&R in 2009.

The sheer confidence and non-corporate attitude cemented their positioning as the mainstream alternative to BA. Everything contained in the production was an opposite to BA. The music, the casting, the character, down to important differentials such as the personality talking to a cooler audience than the stuffed shirts lining up to board a BA flight to New York.

I love the wardrobe department’s contribution – making competitive flight crew looking drab and dull – whereas the emotional charge of the Virgin flight crew walking through the terminal is powerful. It always gets me, then you get the payoff where one traveller says “I need to change my job” and his colleague says “I need to change my ticket.” That is the business goal behind the advertising – getting regular premium passengers to switch to Virgin.

I have a slot as a guest speaker at a university business school addressing post graduates slogging away for their masters. This particular piece of advertising is an exemplary example that explains positioning as a strategic tool in competitive marketing rather than quasi-academic waffle.

Brilliant on every level.

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About Paul Simons

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Paul joined Cadbury-Schweppes in brand management and then moved to United Biscuits. He switched to advertising in his late 20s, at Cogent Elliott and then Gold Greenlees Trott. He founded Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson in the late 80s, one of the leading creative agencies of the 90s. Simons Palmer then merged with TBWA to create a top ten agency. Paul then joined O&M as chairman & CEO of the UK group. After three years he left to create a new AIM-quoted advertising group Cagney Plc. He is now a consultant to a number of client companies. Paul also shares his thoughts on his blog. Visit Paul Simons Blog.