Virgin Plus launches new platform with a very obvious campaign

Who: Virgin Plus, with Zulu Alpha Kilo for strategy and creative (LG2 for French versions, and Dyversity for Chinese and Hinglish versions); production by The Salmon (directed by Adam & Dave); with media by Media Experts and DCOE (Bell’s internal media arm).

What: “(Obviously)” a new brand platform and campaign for Bell’s flanker mobile brand, positioning it as the “obvious” choice for customers looking for 5G wireless.

When & Where: The new branding and campaign launched Tuesday (July 25) and is running nationally across all major media—TV, online/social video, OOH, radio, retail, and digital display—in English and French, as well as Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, and Hinglish (see it at bottom).

Why: As is usually the case in Canada when it comes to mobile, the communications and positioning focus is on price, data, and services ,which, since 2021, has included home internet and TV service. For the platform’s launch campaign, Virgin is specifically focused on the rollout of its 5G data plan and low pricing at a time when people are trying to cut costs. (Telus’ Public introduced 5G earlier this year, and Mobile Syrup, which specializes in cellphone players in Canada, provides an overview of the new Virgin offerings here.)

“With prices increasing on almost everything, we’re all looking for affordable options, especially when it comes to the things we can’t live without, like our phones and internet,” said Claire Gillies, head of marketing at Virgin Plus. “Virgin Plus understood the assignment and is delivering (obviously)—we’re introducing more affordable service offerings that fit everyone’s needs and budget.”

Virgin launched the Virgin Plus brand in 2021, but said it wanted a “fresh new look” to help relaunch for Zulu Alpha Kilo, the solution to that challenge was obvious.

How: The campaign is anchored by some playful advertising starring familiar celebrities who can both explain the benefits of the new offering while also humorously explaining how Virgin is obviously the right option.

The English creative stars Andre Braugher, most recently Captain Raymond Holt on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. In the launch spot, which includes a long-form online version with cutdowns, Braugher sells the $55 unlimited 5G offer in various scenes and settings that play with the word “obviously” and some obvious synonyms—like “obvs” in a high school hallway with two school girls.

“We knew it was the way to go because of how clearly the creative concept highlights our affordable unlimited nationwide 5G offering,” said Devorah Lithwick, head of brand for Virgin Plus. “The brief was to make the offer the hero, and it truly is.”

“It’s hard to launch a rebrand with a retail offering. Especially in such a competitive category,” said Zak Mroueh, ZAK’s founder and creative chair. “People are used to seeing price points in telco advertising. They aren’t used to seeing them presented in courtrooms, crime scenes, or on the sides of a tree trunk. By building the film around synonyms for ‘Obviously,’ and finding unexpected ways of showcasing the offer in each scene, we turned the challenge of delivering a retail message into an opportunity.”

(And Virgin founder Richard Branson tweeted out his endorsement of the campaign to his 12.4 million followers early this afternoon.)

The target: “The existing Virgin Plus brand was very focused on a younger more urban audience,” said Lithwick. “For the brand and business to grow, the goal was to open it up to a much broader audience across age groups, across cultures, really all across Canada.”

In particular, Virgin said reaching newcomer Canadians is a campaign goal, which explains the unusual decision to shoot the campaign in both traditional and simplified Chinese, as well as Hinglish with different actors.

“Creatively, the use of humour and celebrity spokespeople gives the brand a fun and fresh formula for breakthrough that will get the attention of the larger audience we are after,” said Mroueh.

The new branding: Virgin and ZAK describe the new design system as “a friendlier and more inclusive aesthetic that builds upon elements of the Virgin global brand.”

“We wanted something that was clean and bold with enough flexibility to stand out in the telco space,” said Stephanie Yung, ZAK’s chief design officer. “The new system strikes a balance between approachability and authenticity to the Virgin Plus brand.”

And we quote: “Not only is it a great platform with the right tone for the brand to move forward with, but it also broadens the appeal of Virgin Plus to all Canadians.” —Devorah Lithwick, head of brand for Virgin Plus

David Brown