CAMPAIGNS: Virgin salutes the power of One - Financial Services PR

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.

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.



Objectives



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

product.



Tactics



Consolidated worked on the launch continuously from the end of

August.



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

involvement.



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

service.



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.



Results



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

stations.



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

News.



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.



Verdict



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

speculation.



’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



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