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Virgin Australia launches first major campaign since appointing creative agency DDB

Virgin Australia used the AFL Grand Final to launch its first major brand campaign since the airline appointed DDB to its creative roster in June.

Centred around ‘Uptimism’, with the tagline “here’s to looking up”, the work is the first major campaign from Virgin Australia since former Telstra marketer Inese Kingsmill joined as chief marketing officer in December 2016.

DDB Australia chief creative officer Ben Welsh told Mumbrella: “Here’s to looking up. It’s just such a wonderful philosophy in life. I don’t think any other brand could own this – it’s inherently optimistic.”

Kingsmill told Mumbrella that the new campaign acted as a differentiator between Virgin and its biggest competitor, Qantas.

“There are essentially two airlines in the market and one of them owns coming home. And coming home is very nice, but the Virgin brand is anchored in the possibilities of takeoff, and what going places can be,” she said.

Just two weeks before Kingsmill joined Virgin, the airline made the decision to cut agency budgets and bring its creative in-house. Three months later, the company announced it was pitching its creative account.

Kingsmill: ‘Coming home is very nice, but the Virgin brand is anchored in the possibilities of takeoff’

Speaking about her decision to pitch Virgin’s creative, Kingsmill said: “There’s a time and a place for everything, and when the creative work was brought in house, it was to address specific requirements that the business had, it was always intended to solve particular problems and see how it went.

“As we developed purpose values and were very clear on what our vision and strategy is, it became very clear that a transformation of not only the marketing function, but also the marketing and agency model needed to come along with that.”

What followed was a lengthy pitch process, during which Clemenger BBDO Sydney, TBWA Sydney, DDB Sydney and M&C Saatchi Sydney were shortlisted as the final four.

When asked about Virgin’s eventual decision to select DDB as its creative agency of record, Kingsmill said:

“[DDB] demonstrated that they had the capability to really be able to grasp what we were trying to do, which was not just create an advertising campaign but tap into something that was bigger, more meaningful and purposeful, and that would be sustainable over a longer period of time.

“They showed up as a team and really connected with us on a team-on-team level, and we’ve had a lot of fun since.”

Referring to the creative process during and after pitching, Welsh said: “The strategy, the conversation, everything was heading this way.”

“What I love is that we would present pictures of people on planes in seats and Inese would respond ‘I don’t want to see that’, and you’re going ‘wow, that’s great’, because normally you have to show that,” he added.

Welsh: “The strategy, the conversation, everything was heading this way.”

The TVC was filmed in various locations around Australia including the Blue Mountains and Richmond in Sydney, as well as the Melbourne CBD and airport precinct.

Included in the ad are various ‘uptimists’, including 30-year-old rock-climber Andrea Hah from Ninja Warrior, 13-year-old up-and-coming AFL star Jack Peris and GWS Giants players Adam Kennedy and Matt Buntine.

“I think it’s a good time because there’s no good news, there’s no leadership,” said Welsh. “The world feels rudderless and Australia feels just as much the same. It feels like the right time for this message to go out there and actually say no, we can make a difference if we believe in something and the opportunity exists in the journey.

“There’s a responsibility of brands to culture, and we don’t always deliver. I love the work, but the idea can be long term and there are so many things we can do off it, and it’s always going to be true. Because journeys are great.”

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