Exclusive: Virgin Atlantic sees a 'Bright Side of Brexit' in darkly funny campaign

Figliulo&Partners helps the airline take advantage of a battered British pound.

Brexit is upon us, and where some see the death knell of British commerce, Virgin Atlantic sees a marketing opportunity. The airline’s latest campaign is "The Bright Side of Brexit," a darkly funny twist on financial ruin from Figliulo&Partners.

"We recognized that when Brexit was announced at the end of last year that—from an airline’s perspective—it represented both a challenge and an opportunity," said Virgin Atlantic head of marketing Jenna Lloyd.

The challenge is that Virgin Atlantic will lose money for the first time in four years thanks to a declining British pound. But the opportunity, Lloyd said, is "that the pound is at an all-time low, which makes it a fabulous time for Americans to visit the UK." And Virgin Atlantic wants to be the airline to get them there.

To fully illustrate this point, Figliulo&Partners, the brand’s global AOR, developed the Brexit Calculator, which spells out the prices of popular tourist purchases before and after the pound’s demise. For the amount consumers will save in cockney lessons (was $182, now $150), a shopping spree in Soho (was $560, now $462) and even a bejeweled codpiece (was $102,999, now $84,948), they can afford two direct, roundtrip tickets to London, maybe even "Upper Class" seats.

"I think Virgin is the only airline that would talk about a codpiece as it relates to Brexit," joked Mark Figliulo, CEO and founder of Figliulo&Partners.

Accompanying the calculator is a 60-second spot that will be released as pre-roll and on social media: An American enters an English pub and is given four beers for the price of three, an authentic English bulldog and a town crier declaring his arrival—all at a bargain, according to the narrator. By the end of the film the yank is buying everyone a round with the savings. Display ads and a 30-second version of the film will also run online.

The campaign’s timing is no coincidence. Last week, UK Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50, which starts the clock on Great Britain’s two-year break-up with the European Union. It also means that the British pound has taken, well, a pounding. Just after the Brexit vote, the British currency reached a 31-year low against the U.S. dollar, and as Lloyd mentioned, it hasn’t fully bounced back.

But Virgin Atlantic isn’t just capitalizing on a favorable exchange rate for Americans. It recently announced three new routes from San Francisco, Boston and New York JFK to Manchester, England and a new flight option from Seattle to London, so it needs to advertise to fill those seats.

Two years ago, Virgin Atlantic’s marketing targeted the tri-state business traveler with the slogan "Business is an Adventure," but Lloyd said the company is now seeking any tourist who wants to visit the UK. In fact, "The Bright Side of Brexit" campaign will expand to Dubai, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Delhi in mid-April. Brexit and the weakened pound is "a globally relevant issue, so it’s the perfect thing for the brand to talk about everywhere," Figliulo said.

That said, Virgin is keeping its eyes on the British currency, said Lloyd. The US media buy ends in June with the option to expand if the exchange rate for Americans continues to be favorable. 

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