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Airlines used to be prestige accounts. More than a few agencies made their mark with airline account work. CP+B was the longshot in winning this business,

Virgin Atlantic’s vice president for North American marketing, John Riordan, abruptly ended the review by choosing Crispin over five other contenders — Omnicom Group’s Merkley Newman Harty and TBWA/Chiat/Day, both New York; Interpublic Group of Cos.’ Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., and Mullen, Wenham, Mass; and WPP Group’s Berlin Cameron/Red Cell, New York, which voluntarily withdrew from the review last month.

Initially, the review was to be narrowed to two or three finalists, one of which would have been chosen in June. Mr. Riordan apparently felt Crispin Porter was the best fit and decided not to proceed further.

Source: CRISPIN PORTER WINS VIRGIN ATLANTIC ACCOUNT | Agency News – Ad Age

And after being barraged with ideas, including things like “can we fly the planes higher, so they are a “step above”” CP+B got to work with the kind of innovative unconventional campaigns they were becoming famous for- often using media strategies that would put them in a competition of one. Like this highly risky idea to create a soft-porn spoof to play in hotels (where business travelers end up) via the Pay Per View in room entertainment. The systems used to provide up to a 3 minute “Free sample” of a porn program that is on a continuous loop (this was long before digital video delivery systems existed) and if you watched more than three minutes you were billed. The Virgin Atlantic trojan horse videos had titles to tittivate, but no actual nudity- but if you weren’t watching, you’d think you had a porno playing. Business travelers racked up millions of views- and with an average watch time of well over 8 minutes.

The masterful part of this campaign was selling the client to go risque which was still considered a big risk, however Richard Branson built the Virgin brand on risque- so what better client to approach with “Suite and Innocent” from “Mile High Productions.”

Warning- this video is far from Politically Correct, and probably wouldn’t fly in 2018.

Other media moves included rooftop ads near airports, and even a CP+B take on the normally staid inflight magazine

Leave it to Virgin Atlantic and Crispin Porter + Bogusky to come up with the perfect trendy name for what might be called a pre-flight mag: Jetrosexual. It’s not an in-flight mag, but rather “a small-format lifestyle book offered on a complimentary basis at airports throughout the country,” explains Crispin CD Andrew Keller. It has a $7.99 price on it, however. “Future issues are in development,” notes Keller. “Think of it as a free coffee table book that gives a glimpse into the lifestyle of a jetsetter.”
The amount of hoopla around each successive campaign was like nothing the airline industry had every seen, or has seen since.