Virgin America goes “street” – why?

Dear Virgin America,

This really doesn’t make any sense at all to me.

Virgin Americas faux street campaign in New York

These stencil ads are spray-painted around my neighborhood in Brooklyn. They’re for a Virgin America campaign. I know this because I fly Virgin America. Of course I’m very reluctant to remotely endorse any commerical product on this site, I gotta tell the truth here; I fly more than most people, I have flown a lot of airlines, and Virgin is better than most. If I can choose, I choose to fly Virgin because airlines like Northwest and US Airways are garbage in comparison. That’s not really my opinion, that’s just a fact. So full disclosure, I have a frequent flyer account with Virgin, I love that I can plug in my laptop under every seat, and I was tickled when I noticed your entertainment system runs on Linux.

Virgin America people, I know you are gonna read this, so what I am trying to tell you is I already like your company.  One can easily look around this site and get the wrong idea – we are not idealogues here at the Anti-Advertising Agency. We’re principled while knowing we don’t live in a fantasy world – it’s a subtle difference.

I also understand Virgin has a certain image – I’m supposed to think of you as rebelious, rock’n’roll, and irreverent, but also you want to provide better service and a quality product.

So why are you stenciling my neighborhood with your advertising?

I imagine you hired some cool marketing company that “understands” the “youth and urban market” like Shephard Fairey’s BLKMRKT?  BLKMRKT makes sense because you decided to riff off the whole chinese/russian propaganda thing with your “Flydealists Unite” campaign. (Unfortunately no once seemed to notice that BLKMRKT has been doing that for about 10 years and it’s getting stale.) Y’all probably thought you could associate Virgin with revolution and waving red flags.  flydealistsYou’d embrace the contradiction with the communist imagery because you’re cool! And anyone who disagrees is old! But of course imagery isn’t enough – someone said “we gotta have a street component” and that was put in the budget.

And no one fucking thought it through.

Graffiti is polarizing – it puts people in two groups. People who like graffiti and stencils don’t like corporate stuff.  They really, really don’t. The other group is people who don’t like graffiti: they don’t understand it and they despise it.

There is no one else.

So when you spray your campaign all over the neighborhood, you piss off the street art people and you piss off everyone else. It’s a lose/lose situation.  No one except the “creatives” who worked on the campaign and the people who signed off on it think it is cool.

It’s also illegal, but you clearly don’t care about that.

Perhaps you’re having that “there’s no such thing as bad press” thought. “At least our message is received” right? Of course it’s recieved – because we can’t ignore it after you sprayed it in our public space. But it’s received with disgust and irritation by everyone.  NO ONE LIKES IT EXCEPT YOUR CREATIVES. As I said before, I already like your company, and tagging my neighborhood isn’t helping. Why are you doing it?

So just stop.

As a strategy, it doesn’t make sense and it’s not working. Stay away from public space. Stick to print, video, and web (I know, I know, it doesn’t sound as fun or edgy and your ad guys will complain). But even smarter, just stick to being a better airline – that’s already working.

Please just stop with the fake revolution, stencil in the street bullshit. We’re all smarter than that.

Just a suggestion,

Steve Lambert

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  1. Tom says:


    Iin the second group: don’t like corporate street art. I don’t agree with your opinion that there’s ‘no one else’. I guess there’s enough people who don’t know anything about graffiti, but don’t dislike it either, who think a campaign like Virgin’s is pretty urban, hip and cool.

    just my two cents…

  2. @Tom – Are you saying you think there’s enough people in Brooklyn and the Manhattan who don’t know anything about graffiti and would think Virgin vandalizing their city is urban, hip, and cool?

  3. […] stop with the fake revolution, stencil in the street bullshit. We’re all smarter than that.” |AAA| by Will Sherman on May 19, 2009 at 12:07 […]

One Trackback

  • By Guerilla Marketing - ANIMAL on May 19, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    […] stop with the fake revolution, stencil in the street bullshit. We’re all smarter than that.” |AAA| by Will Sherman on May 19, 2009 at 12:07 […]

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