'It created a sense of solidarity' - Behind the Campaign with Virgin Media and The Big Issue

Angela Bertram, senior social lead at Virgin Media, discusses the brand's 'Digital high street' campaign, produced in partnership with The Big Issue.

What was the campaign, in a nutshell?

Reliant on The Big Issue for their livelihood, vendors endured three national lockdowns where they were unable to sell copies. We wanted to give them a platform to tell their stories and encourage the public to support and #RememberBigIssue over Christmas. The Big Issue took over Virgin Media’s Twitter channel for 24 hours and transformed it into a ‘digital high street’, allowing the public to connect with the stories of real-life vendors online.

How did the idea come into being?

The partnership grew from a separate campaign, Virgin Media’s '25 days of Christmas'. This was specifically for Virgin Media customers and gave them a chance to win great prizes every day in December, while also supporting those less fortunate in their communities. Recognising the importance of building connections, Virgin Media offered 10 vendors in each of the 25 prize-winning areas a £100 voucher.

We were so taken by the reaction and the stories of the vendors receiving this gift during the Christmas campaign that we wanted to amplify it across social and support The Big Issue in a bigger, bolder way. We knew we needed to highlight those in need during the festive season and to strengthen that community connection; the takeover idea came from there.

What ideas were rejected?

We looked at other options around amplifying Virgin’s ongoing #stayconnected brand message; however, we decided it was important to do more for some of the most vulnerable people in our society during a very tough festive period.

Briefly describe the campaign planning and process.

Virgin Media and The Big Issue began discussing the partnership at the start of November. We decided on the 'digital high street' route together, and activated the campaign with marketing agency RAPP. The team then worked on collecting the stories and imagery of real-life street vendors, featuring one per hour during the day of the takeover. We worked with Tin Man on the trade PR.

What were the biggest challenges, and how did you overcome them?

Our biggest challenge was making sure Virgin Media’s tone of voice was right for the campaign. Vendors are, of course, people like you and me, so we wanted to ensure that we handled shining a light on their hard-hitting stories sensitively and delicately. We were really pleased with the results and the impact the campaign had.

How did you measure the results, and what were they?

The most important outcome of the campaign was to highlight the issue and to increase the number of donations to The Big Issue. In the first week of the campaign going live there was a 79 per cent increase in donations.

We also wanted to spread awareness of the impact of The Big Issue. This can be successfully seen in a 65 per cent increase in the number of people visiting The Big Issue website on the day the takeover went live.

What's the biggest lesson you took away from the campaign?

The partnership between Virgin Media and The Big Issue highlighted that brand social channels can be used to scale the reach of an issue and drive impact where it's most needed for those most marginalised in our communities. For the vendors it created a sense of solidarity and connectedness to their community, and demonstrated how easy it is to make a difference. In addition, it demonstrated that Virgin Media continues to support issues that resonate with our wider brand values.

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