Virgin has been rumoured to be opening a bank ever since it
launched financial products including PEPs and pensions. The launch date
for the banking service was set for Friday 17 October, to maximise
weekend financial press opportunities. Virgin’s ’bank’ is actually a
joint venture with The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) offering one account
which covers mortgage, current and credit card accounts.
To achieve as much coverage as possible in the popular media in order to
raise public awareness of Virgin One, while avoiding criticism that
Branson’s company was spreading itself too thinly. To persuade personal
finance editors and City editors that Virgin One is a worthy
Consolidated worked on the launch continuously from the end of
It was kept secret to maximise the impact on 17 October. The first
announcement was made at 7.30am to the Stock Exchange because of RBS’s
A series of media briefings were held in the final week targeting the
personal finance journalists of the daily and weekend papers, warning
them a major announcement was due on Friday. Journalists were given
Psion Siena organisers fitted with software that explained the
Media packs were biked to all relevant journalists on the morning of the
launch. In Holland Park a photo-call was arranged to enable fresh shots
and TV footage to be taken of Branson alongside George Mathewson, chief
executive of RBS. Three senior Virgin One staff were on hand all day for
interviews and to explain the concept to journalists. Case studies were
provided to explain whom the service might benefit most.
The careful timing of the launch paid off, with the story achieving
considerable broadcast coverage on the Friday, backed up by features in
the news and financial sections of the weekend papers.
The story ran on the front page of the London Evening Standard all day
Friday, helped by the fact that Branson was given a first edition of the
paper to brandish at the photo-call.
Three directors of Virgin One and Branson himself were interviewed by
Radio 4’s Today and Money Box programmes, Radio 5 and local radio
BBC 1’s Nine O’Clock News interviewed Branson in a story related to the
strike at Barclays, plus BBC 2’s Working Lunch programme and Sky
Over the weekend the Sunday Times, Mail on Sunday, Financial Times,
Mirror, Guardian, Times, Telegraph and Mail gave the story coverage on
both news and financial advice pages.
The objective of generating a high impact launch was met. Tony Wood,
Virgin One’s marketing director, was pleased with the publicity.
All key publications covered the story and coverage was almost entirely
positive, apart from a backlash against the Psion organisers, which the
Daily Telegraph dismissed as ’some sort of freebie’. The campaign was
helped by the newsworthiness of the story after months of
’They had the advantage of Branson himself, who is photogenic and very
well-known. Most financial stories are accompanies by a picture of a
grey chief executive shaking hands,’ said Marianne Curphey at the Times.
But the business of packing so much coverage into one day was carried
out with military precision.
Client: Virgin Direct
PR Team: Consolidated Communications
Campaign: Launch of Virgin One account
Timescale: End of August ongoing
Cost: pounds 15,000