Virgin Mobile taps Shift Communications

NEW YORK: The agency will focus on broadening the company's message to fit with the current economy, as well as promote its expanded offerings.

NEW YORK: Virgin Mobile has named Shift Communications as its AOR. The agency will focus on broadening the company's message to fit with the current economy, as well as promote its expanded offerings.
 
Virgin Mobile offers prepaid and pay-as-you-go cell-phone coverage, but the company added post-pay service after it completed its acquisition this past August of Helio, which included its product offerings like Ocean, as well as its almost 200,000 customers.
 
Shift, which was expected to commence work on the account January 1, will assist Virgin Mobile on three major challenges facing the company. Among them is changing the perception of prepaid cell phones in the consumer marketplace, according to Jayne Wallace, VP of corporate communications at Virgin Mobile.
 
In addition, the agency will be tasked with maximizing Virgin Mobile's social media opportunities and raising awareness of its post-paid cell-phone offerings.
 
The company's previous messaging carried an anti-contract sentiment, but it will now emphasize that consumers can have any wireless service and on their own terms.
 
“We are developing a new campaign and branding to be broad enough to encompass prepay and post-pay,” Wallace explained. “But prepay is still our bread and butter and we want to let people know that in this economy it's a great alternative, not just a second-best option.”
 
In July, Virgin had chosen Ruder Finn (RF) as its AOR following a competitive review. Shift had placed second in that bid.
 
When asked about splitting with RF, Wallace said the company was looking for an agency willing to include more services within the base budget. She also noted Virgin Mobile's track record of working with boutique agencies.
 
Richard Funess, president of Ruder Finn Americas, told PRWeek via e-mail, “We are parting ways amicably. Unfortunately it was not the best fit for either party.”

Todd Defren, principal at Shift, said, “This is the one that got away. To have that fish jump back in the boat six months later was real validation.”
 
The prepay market faces a lack of awareness and misconceptions, Wallace noted. To combat negative perceptions, she said the company would tout its prepay perks, like rollover minutes, free nights-and-weekends promotions, ring tones, and messaging features.
 
The prepay plans mostly target budget-conscious women and minorities through publications like Family Circle, Cosmopolitan, and Real Simple.
 
The company will also target local business sections and newspapers that are increasing their consumer coverage. The sagging economy offers a unique opportunity to expand the makeup of the customer base for prepaid plans, Wallace added.
 
“We'll still target general consumers who are budget-conscious, but that range is changing a lot,” she added. “People who were not on the low end last year might be finding themselves on the low end now.”
 
Virgin Mobile can now also target a larger range of publications because the Helio acquisition added more sophisticated devices to its offerings. Such possibilities include celebrity seeding opportunities and pitching upscale outlets such as Vanity Fair, Esquire, and Playboy.
 
“We want to [be] associated with quality service, quality products, and being cool,” Wallace noted. “And we want that to be true for our prepay and post-pay offerings.”
 
Shift will also develop a social media plan for both offerings that target social networks and blogs.

“Our customers are online; that's how they live their lives,” Wallace said, referring to the 18- to 34-year-olds that make up Virgin Mobile's customer base.

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