BrandMAX 2012: Celebs in ads 'blessing and curse' says Virgin's Larcombe

Richard Larcombe: director of advertising and sponsorship at Virgin Media
Richard Larcombe: director of advertising and sponsorship at Virgin Media

The use of celebrities in ad campaigns can be a "blessing and a curse", because it can be difficult to distinguish whether the celebrities are trying to promote themselves or the brand, according to Richard Larcombe, director of advertising and sponsorship at Virgin Media.

Speaking at Haymarket's BrandMAX, the Virgin Media executive said: "The use of celebrities can be a blessing and a curse, as often it's hard to know if they are promoting their brand or your brand."

Citing Virgin Media's strategy behind its much-trumpeted Usain Bolt campaign, which launched at the start of this year, Larcombe said it had been necessary to be disruptive in advertising its broadband offering, as consumers are generally apathetic towards the product and just see it as a pipe.

"In such a knife-fight of a market, the danger is everything becomes a bundle sale," he said. "Disruption allows us to punctuate the consciousness of consumers in a low interest category.

"Although we weren't an Olympic sponsor, we singed up Bolt, who is the worldwide face of the Olympics, and got it [the campaign] out there first. We can claim some glory for this."

Larcombe explained that unlike rivals BSkyB and BT, a call to action is "a really big deal" for Virgin Media, which does not have as big a marketing budget as its rivals.

A key challenge was also retaining consumer interest until the end of the commercial. He said Bolt's "finger wiggle", pointing to the Virgin Media URL helped it achieve this call to action.

He said the Virgin Media website has had two million visits since the start of the campaign. Meanwhile the number of Facebook fans it had tripled in the first six weeks of the campaign.

While Virgin Media dialled-up the success of the campaign, it has had many of its broadband speeds claims in its ads challenged by rivals BSkyB and BT and has had a number of them banned by the Advertising Standards Authority.

When questioned whether this was one of the pitfalls of creating a disruptive campaign, Larcombe said that the company did not plan to go into the market to get complaints.

He said: "One of challenges in the technological market, is it's hard to know where the boundaries are when you are pushing the boundaries."

He added that it works closely with its lawyers and takes advice on how to develop the campaigns.

Andrew Morley, UK and Ireland general manager at Motorola Mobility UK, admitted on stage later in the day that Motorola would have "loved" to use Usain Bolt in its advertising. He added that Virgin Media "nailed it in way that non-sponsors didn't manage to achieve".

Discussion

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now

Latest

Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message
Lynx unleashes £9m 'Peace invasion' campaign
Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network
Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage
Ash runs Tinder experiment to show smokers are less desirable to opposite sex
British Airways teams up with Gerry Cottle Jnr for summer of rooftop film screenings
Arklu says 'girls can be superheroes too' with doll design competition
Coke enters squash market with Oasis Mighty Drops
Virgin Galactic signs up Land Rover as space flight sponsor
Motorola marketer Andrew Morley departs as Google gears up for sale to Lenovo
US Airways apologises after tweeting obscene image at a customer
Mumsnet admits users' emails and passwords accessed via Heartbleed bug