Virgin: Still Sexist?

Twenty-five years ago, Virgin shook up the staid world of air travel with a service and brand that was refreshing and modern. It was a ‘challenger’ in the true sense of the word, fearlessly taking on big, bad old BA. So why has it chosen to celebrate that fact with such an old-fashioned ad, in every sense?

Twenty-five years ago, Virgin shook up the staid world of air travel with a service and brand that was refreshing and modern. It was a ‘challenger’ in the true sense of the word, fearlessly taking on big, bad old BA. So why has it chosen to celebrate that fact with such an old-fashioned ad, in every sense?

Y&R in London is behind this new ad for Virgin Atlantic, which celebrates the airline’s 25th anniversary. Its retro styling has already had many critics raving but the message behind the ad seems even more outdated than its look.

The spot features a yuppie (talking enthusiastically into his brick-like mobile phone, natch) arriving at an airport where he is floored by a passing group of female flight attendants dressed in red power suits and stilettoes, their (mostly) blonde tresses flowing in the breeze. Walking to the beat of Relax by Frankie Goes To Hollywood (a la Catch Me If You Can), everyone stops to look at them, including the dowdier-looking women who look on with envy and, of course, all the men in the room. The ad then ends with an awkward exchange between two male onlookers and the tagline ‘Still Red Hot’.

What are we supposed to take from this? Surely Virgin has something more interesting to say about itself than “fly with us because we’ve got the most shaggable stewardesses”, even if it’s doing so with its tongue in its cheek? OK, so perhaps an attempt is being made to satirise the mores as well as the look of 80s advertising, but that just leaves the viewer with the impression that Virgin is stuck in the past.

Virgin was attractive because it sought to leave such retarded nonsense behind. It was supposed to be modern. And yet the attitudes behind this commercial are as outmoded as the, albeit beautifully-styled, retro setting.

If you were the female CEO of a major organisation, would this ad make you want to give your business to Virgin?

Creative director
Mark Roalfe
Copywriter
Pip Bishop
Art director
Chris Hodgkiss
Director
TRAKTOR

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