Ground Zero Ahead in Virgin Megastore Review

Virgin Entertainment, which initiated its troubled agency search about four months ago, may be moving closer to a resolution of its $25 million Virgin Megastore review.

Sources said Ground Zero, Marina del Rey, Calif., which handled Virgin’s U.S. launch of its Virgin Cola brand back in 1998, is considered a front-runner because it was personally invited to pitch the account by Glen Ward, Virgin Entertainment Group and Virgin Megastore Online CEO and president.

The shop was asked about a month ago to participate in the second review process, while Leagas Delaney in San Francisco, 120 in Los Angeles and undisclosed others were already vying for the account.

“We’re in the middle of an agency pitch that is expected to be completed next week, end of story,” Ward said, refusing to answer any further questions. Ground Zero declined comment. Final pitches are set for Sept. 6 and 7.

The Virgin review has been problematic from the start. Several shops withdrew, complaining that they were given little time to prepare for the pitch and received conflicting instructions from Vir-gin’s staff.

In addition to having to restart the entire pitch process in early July, the client recently lost Christos Garkinos, evp of marketing. Newly appointed vp of marketing Dawn Roberts takes over this week.

Meanwhile, sources said Ground Zero principals Jim Smith and An-drew Gledhill, both British like Ward, have a long-standing business relationship with the Virgin brand. They would be eager to get the brick-and-mortar and online branding Virgin assignment.

The work involves a branding campaign for the Megastore retail and online element as well as Virgin JamCast and Radio Free Virgin.

“They have a great fondness for the Virgin brand,” a source said.

“Virgin has taken the time to talk to them. It has invited them to make suggestions of what Virgin [should do].”