Halting Urban Development Is As Simple As Getting Dressed Emergency Chicken

What’s good for the travel agents, isn’t always good for Virgin Blue

July 21st, 2008 at 01:59pm

An interesting story from news.com.au that I missed a couple days ago

VIRGIN Blue has been left red-faced after being forced to scrap an advertising campaign which urged people to “chuck a sickie” and jet off on holidays.

The controversial online “chuck-a-sickie sale” campaign urged frequent flyers to take time off work and take advantage of “top sale fares”.

But Virgin Blue chief Brett Godfrey moved to axe the campaign just 29 minutes after first seeing it, following a media inquiry over the slogan.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t see the difference between this advertising campaign and a similar one which was running inside Canberra’s buses for over a year, not all that long ago. The advertising campaign that I’m thinking of was run by a travel agent, from memory it was Sta Travel but I’m not entirely sure of that, and basically contained a transcript of a fictional phone call from an employee to an employer, explaining that they aren’t coming in to work, and won’t be for some time, due to an exotic illness. In the advertisement, it is quite clear that the phone call was being placed from a payphone in another country. The tagline on the ad was something about going on a holiday and working the rest out later.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen the ad, but it was running for quite some time. I suppose the only plausible difference between the two campaigns is that Virgin Ble were running their campaign online and are a higher profile company. The campaign was therefore more noticeable, and for a company which relies fairly heavily on their brand being prominently and positively placed in the minds of people, I would imagine that Mr. Godfrey was concerned that negative publicity could work against the company.

I don’t think the campaign or potential negative publicity would have done Virgin Blue any harm, in fact I think most people would have seen the funny side of it and known that it wasn’t a directive or recommendation. As a campaign, it was quite clever and was probably designed to stir up a bit of controversy. Nothing makes an advertising campaign more effective than letting the media turn it in to “water cooler conversation”.

That said, the company is adamant that I’m wrong, and that they weren’t trying to cause controversy.

“It wasn’t some form of provocative advertising, it was simply a debatable advertising slogan that slipped through the cracks,” [Virgin Blue Spokeswoman] Ms [Heather] Jeffrey said.

It could be a move which will cost Mr. Godfrey though, because the news about Virgin Blue which has been getting media attention in the last few days is almost all about them increasing fares and lowering baggage weight limits. A bit of controversy to increase public awareness about something amusing they are doing, instead of something which hits the hip pocket, might be just what they need at the moment.

Oh well, it’s their (or should I say majority shareholder Richard Branson’s) loss.


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