Virgin Hotels Las Vegas names OH Partners to launch casino

Campaign will embrace the brand's entertainment roots along with taking a look at more pragmatic things like rising resort fees and pricey minibars.

With a brand like Virgin, it’s fair to expect something different. 

New agency of record for Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, OH Partners, with offices in las Vegas and Phoenix, was announced last week for brand launch strategy and creative execution for the forthcoming casino hotel, which sits on the site of the former Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, just off of the city’s famed strip.

OH Partners is promising marketing that will make the most of Virgin’s roots in music and entertainment, along with more practical value propositions concerning resort fees and charges that can shock travelers at check out. 

Virgin Hotels Las Vegas will open in late 2020, with advertising, ranging from out-of-home, social and digital, launching this summer. Already, teaser billboards and a digital campaign, dubbded "While You Wait," are up.

"The Virgin brand promise is ordinary is the enemy," said Scott Harkey, founder and managing partner at OH Partners. "That doesn’t mean hipster or how you dress. It is more about who you are and have a great time."

The casino will leverage some of the brand equity that Virgin has carefully nurtured over the years from its start in music and as an iconoclast across disparate categories, including telecom, beverages, financial services and, most famously, airlines. 

The teaser campaign already showcases Virgin founder, Sir Richard Branson, in a promotional video, along with dashes of Brittania that the company embraces globally, and good drenching of the brand’s signature color, vibrant red. 

Launch marketing will emphasize entertainment over gambling, the property’s location off of the touristy Las Vegas Strip and a more transparent approach to add-on costs and fees.

Entertainment is a big thing Las Vegas and the Virgin brand share in common.

"Nowadays, Las Vegas is as much about entertainment as it is about gambling, especially with millennial consumers. Entertainment is the fabric of the brand, that is what is cool about them being in Vegas," said Harkey.

OH Partners already works on Virgin’s loyalty program, The Know, which helped open the door to winning the casino account and the team has been able to leverage insights from frequent travelers.  

"A couple of interesting things we found are that consumers are frustrated with resort fees," Harkey added. "You are getting booking fees, guest fees, early check-in fees. Then you go to the minibar and prices are outrageous."

Last year, many luxury properties, including the Venetian, Wynn, Bellagio and Aria, raised their resort fees to $45 a day.

As for minibars, 70 percent of travelers in 2015 told Go Airport Express and the Go Group LLC that they never used the minibar. When chocolate bars or a can of Coke can go for upwards of $10, it ruined most consumers appetites for these stocked fridges. They’re ripe for a reality-check reinvention, noted Harkey.    

In addition to potentially offering more transparent fees and less onerous minibar pricing, Harkey says being off the strip will be another point of differentiation. The property is close enough to feed off of the buzz of the Las Vegas Strip, without dealing with random foot traffic.

"We are completely embracing that, it absolutely fits their brand," said Harkey.

Earlier this month, independent agency Joan picked up lead agency duties for Virgin Hotels. Virgin also launched Scarlet Lady, an adults-only luxury cruise ship, signaling an all-around big play in the travel industry. 

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