Virgin Seeks ‘Fun’ Ads Despite Chaos

Agencies vying for Virgin Atlantic Airways’ $12-15 million creative and media account are being asked how to market fun in the grimmest environment the aviation business has ever seen.

The British airline, whose U.S. headquarters are in Norwalk, Conn., is known for its sassy ads, including a 2001 effort by CMG Communications that pokes fun at Queen Elizabeth. The RFP states that “the challenge is to [continue the ad strategy, which portrays Virgin as a savvy, innovative carrier] in an unfavorable social and economic environment.” It also states that Virgin is known for “quality” and a “sense of fun.”

“Consumers know that the airlines are in chaos, going bankrupt, and now there is the Middle East conflict,” said Henry Harteveldt, an analyst at Forrester Research in San Francisco. But Virgin is expected to meet its numbers at the close of its fiscal year on April 30, he said.

The client wants an agency that offers services including interactive and PR, according to the RFP. CMG lacked those resources, said John Riordan, vp of marketing, North America. Media duties are handled by Carat in New York. Carat execs could not be reached at press time.

Among the dozen shops that received RFPs are New York agencies Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Berlin Cameron/Red Cell, BrandBuzz, Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners and TBWA\Chiat\Day; Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Miami; McKinney & Silver in Raleigh, N.C.; Mullen in Wenham, Mass.; and The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., sources said. Roth Associates in New York is managing the search.