The Still Red Hot campaign launched by Virgin Atlantic in 2009 is a great example of an agency effectively using storytelling to shape brand resonance. In 2009, when most brands were tightening their marketing belts, Virgin Atlantic airline went full throttle by launching a campaign to celebrate its 25-year anniversary.
In an integrated campaign designed by RKCR/Y&R of London, Richard Branson’s airline produced the most talked about TV commercial of the year, a 90-second throwback to its 1984 launch. Marketing Society writes, “In an industry struggling to ride out a worldwide global recession, this campaign was dubbed by Richard Branson the best Virgin Atlantic ad ever made (“Still pioneering after all these years, 2010).
The airport is relatively colorless until the all-in-red flight attendants make their entrance. They are so captivating that a business man drops his high-tech cell phone, an Asteroid-loving video-playing teen pauses his game to look up, a burger-wielding man is distracted and squirts ketchup all over himself and paparazzi abandon a Cyndi Lauper doppelganger to photograph the crew. The plot is linear and is easy to follow. The viewer is drawn in immediately and feels a part of the Virgin scene.
RKCR does an excellent job of developing the characters in this commercial. Though each character is only given mere seconds to add value, various demographics are represented and express through facial expression and body language what can’t be expressed in dialogue.
In fact, the only dialogue exchanged is between two men at the end where one says, “I need to change my job” while his comrade says, “I need to change my ticket.” This was intentional, as David Fowler of The Creative Companion reminds creatives, “The most important part of any television advertisement is its conclusion, the last five seconds. That’s the part that resolves, explains, summarizes, or excuses the preceding twenty-five seconds” (as cited in Sullivan, 2012). RKCR used this conversation to drive home the point- change your ticket to Virgin Atlantic.
Though this commercial nailed it, it did not stand alone. Outdoor media and radio were integrated to reach all audiences with this campaign. Effectiveness was measured- £19 revenue for every £1 spent proved a strong ROI for Virgin (“Still pioneering after all these years, 2010).
Storytelling is the perfect vehicle for this brand. Richard Branson is a compelling business personality at the helm of Virgin. It seems fitting that anything with the Branson/Virgin name on it has a story to tell.
lf the Virgin Atlantic brand can be said to have attitude, that attitude was [Richard Branson’s] — maverick, challenging, witty and innovative. For nearly 20 years this brand voice has remained consistently fresh and innovative, helping Virgin Atlantic communications rise above and stand out from the competition. The Still Red Hot 25th anniversary campaign was the very epitome of this attitude and further leveraged the style and glamour long associated with the brand (“Still pioneering after all these years”, 2010).
Still pioneering after all these years. (2010). Retrieved from https://www.marketingsociety.com/the-library/2010-virgin-atlantic-sustaining-brand-promise-case-study
Sullivan, L. (2012). Hey whipple squeeze this!: A classic guide to creating great ads. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Virgin America. (2009, March 17). Virgin Atlantic: 25 years, Still Red Hot. [Online video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cM4EOeJzHA.