This was a fun and creative campaign with a clear target audience and a strategy that delivered both cultural and commercial impact. This campaign really demonstrated authenticity and understanding of the target audience in the context of Pride and its history. This was a pure PR campaign which generated significant national coverage and high levels of social media engagement. This was a simple idea that was beautifully executed with potential for replication across other markets. 100% of coverage included a hard to achieve CTA which delivered a genuine return on investment.

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Winner entry:

Brief and objectives:

Virgin Holidays has made a big, public and proud commitment to LGBTQ+ travellers for many years, championing the equality cause.

Ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and World Pride in New York in June 2019, we ramped up the love for the LGBTQ+ community by announcing the first ever Pride Flight. Staffed entirely by LGBTQ+ staff and with appearances from queer performers, the flight from LDN to NYC for World Pride in June will be a celebration of all things queer culture; flying the flag for Virgin’s ongoing commitment to giving LGBTQ+ customers the best, safest, most memorable travel experiences.

Our task:

  1. Drive fame for Virgin Holidays and Virgin Atlantic with a campaign rooted in “talkability” and drive Pride Flight ticket sales
  2. Reinforce both brands’ commitment to diversity and inclusion, themed around LGBTQ+ heroes and demonstrate that Virgin is OUT & PROUD.

The idea, research and planning:

Virgin’s audience is defined by a mindset. ‘Maximisers’ share a ‘Virgin’ attitude – positive, open minded and interested in other cultures and lifestyles.

For this campaign, we targeted 25–44y/o Maximisers. The goal was to also tap into the 4m British adults who identify as LGBTQ+ and the 60% of Brits who say they’re more likely to buy from “gay-friendly” companies. This audience is online, checks social networks at least once a day and over-indexes on internet access and mobile consumption. It also still reads traditional print and consumes quality news online.

Using the Attitude Awards to announce the flight to attendees gave us the opportunity to sell tickets to influential LGBTQ+ travellers. But with the event eight months prior to take-off, we had to create an announcement that would really grab attention.

We partnered with LGBT hero, Tituss Burgess, to create a sassy piece of content to capture the exciting atmosphere on board the flight. A well-known Broadway star and co-star of Netflix classic, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Tituss also created the perfect link to NYC. The video, shared across owned and earned channels after its premier screening at the Attitude Awards, was used to announce and drive bookings to the Pride Flight.

We implemented a strategic PR plan to target showbiz, travel, lifestyle, trade and pink press with the news of the flight, focussing messaging around Virgin’s commitment to LGBTQ+ travellers. We kicked off outreach with exclusive media interviews with Tituss for target titles and invited Press Association behind the scenes at the shoot. We then lifted the embargo the day before the awards using an impressive suite of assets including the hero film and imagery.

Strategy, tactics, creativity and innovation:

Using the iconic 2009 brand advertising campaign “Still Red Hot” as creative reference to drive brand saliency, we shot a playful, humorous Pride Flight announcement teaser film.

Made for social, the 30s film kicked off with a banging three second intro to drive interest and engagement. The hero content featured Tituss in a Virgin pilot uniform flanked by a squad of Drag Queens in Virgin crew uniform, as they walked with pride through the airport to the astonishment of airport guests. Tituss closed with a compelling call to action – buy a seat on the flight now! The hero content went live, with spend, at 8am on launch day.

Delivery:

We also created collection of additional social assets, including cut-downs of the hero; ‘swipe up’ Instagram Stories delivered by talent; a tongue in cheek Glam Tutorial from our Drag Queen cabin crew cast; and a number of rainbow embellished GIFs for Giphy. Each of these provided additional opportunities to connect with the audience and maintain momentum around the sales message.

Measurement and evaluation:

We generated fame with 172 pieces of coverage with a reach of 400m+ in agenda setting titles including BBC News, Daily Mail, Daily Express, The Guardian, Metro, GQ, and Mail Online. Half of the coverage included a Virgin spokesperson quote about the company’s commitment to LGBTQ+ travellers and news of the first ever Pride Flight travelled far beyond the travel pages into news, lifestyle, showbiz and culture sections. 100% of coverage promoted the flight with a sale CTA.

The hero video generated 1.4m impressions, 175k views, and 102k engagements. Engagement was unprecedentedly high – the highest of any social post in Virgin Holidays’ history – and overwhelmingly positive; a targeting win. We prepared a selection of light-hearted but sassy one-liners to shut-down any negativity but, thankfully, didn’t need to use them. Virgin Atlantic also shared the posts organically, achieving an additional 170k views and 18k engagements.

Tituss Burgess used his own Instagram channels to show off his involvement too, with an image and the hero video – earning a further 25k organic video views and 40k more engagements.

Budget and campaign impact:

  • Content production (inc. Talent): £95,000
  • Additional social assets: £8,000
  • Social media spend: £5,000
  • Agency fees: £12,000
  • TOTAL: £120,000

After the video went live on social, the flight SOLD OUT WITHIN 3 HOURS! The success of this campaign, beyond the coverage and the reach, was determined by the sales results – for which this one earned media campaign was wholly responsible.