Richard Branson's Virgin America airline is doing it again, shaking up the status quo with its latest 'Originals' experience campaign featuring some of the airline's Elevate frequent flyers, and with more hailing from Silicon Valley than Hollywood.
"For years, flying domestically had largely become a dismal, uninspired experience. When Virgin America launched, the idea that a domestic airline could reinvent that experience – through technology, design and entertainment – was still a pretty radical notion," stated Luanne Calvert, VP Marketing at Virgin America.
"But from the day the airline started flying, our cabin experience has attracted travelers who believed in us – believed an airline could do better, and many of them also happened to be challenging the status quo in their own fields. Those flyers have been some of our most loyal guests, they've inspired us – and this campaign was a natural extension of that."
Curators of the in-cabin digital experience offered via the Red touch-screen platform include: Tim Westergren, Co-founder of Pandora, Ryan Schreiber, Founder of Pitchfork, Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, Co-Founders of Gilt Group, Xeni Jardin, Co-Editor of BoingBoing.net, and Ji Lee, Independent Artist and Creative Strategist of Facebook.
Schreiber created a mash-up from Virgin’s 4,000 track music library while Maybank and Wilson designed a new sandwich. Virgin CEO Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic Pilot Mark Stucky, and actor-turned-civil servant/DNC-star Kal Penn are also participants.
"The two key criteria were people who were avid fliers who appreciated our product" and "people who had done something original in their area," Calvert told Ad Age, adding, "a lot of our fliers do tend to come from Silicon Valley" explaining the choice of so many tech stars.
The campaign’s OOH components include a wrap of a BART transit tunnel in Virgin’s hometown, San Francisco, and digital billboards in New York's Times Square with a live feed of text and images tweeted from Virgin America flights.
Virgin travelers can participate via the Twitter hashtag #MyVXExperience, sharing photos of their "original" Virgin America experience at 35,000 feet via the airline's Gogo In-flight WiFi.
"Our cabin experience is so different, and for a young airline still new to many – it is tough to convey just how different it is, especially in a category where we've been trained to think 'you've seen one airline, you've seen them all.' So we focused a lot on video, an immersive digital portal and creative OOH – as well as a social layer," said Jesse McMillin, Creative Director at Virgin America. (The campaign creative was developed by San Francisco-based Eleven.)
Since its launch in 2007, Virgin America has grown in popularity and accolades including being named "Best U.S. Airline" in Conde Nast Traveler's Readers' Choice Awards and "Best Domestic Airline" in Travel + Leisure's World's Best Awards.