Depart the Everyday: Behind the scenes of our new TV ad

We’re coming back with a bang this month with the launch of new Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays brand campaigns.

The new Virgin Atlantic campaign encourages people to  ‘Depart The Everyday‘, by  articulating the superior experience our passengers receive above the clouds. It’s underpinned by a 60-second TV advert that follows passengers escaping the everyday nature of travel – before breaking through into an other-worldly experience above the clouds, where the sun is always shining and the magic of the onboard experience comes to life.

The creative depicts a departure from the ordinary through ‘hyper-real’ fantastical imagery, and the cabin crew featured in the Virgin Atlantic advert are real employees you could see on an everyday flight, handpicked to star in the commercial following an internal audition process.

Virgin Holidays’ campaign, ‘The World is Your Playground‘, encourages customers to view the world with a sense of wonder and openness, and links key Virgin Holidays destinations to popular ‘play’ themes. The new TV ad shows someone riding a vintage muscle car down Big Sur as if it was a skateboard, while carousel horses glide along the beach in Barbados and giant paper boats sail under the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco Bay.

We caught up with two of the people involved behind the scenes for Virgin Atlantic for a quick Q&A –– Lizzie Davies, our Consumer Content and Creative Manager, and Andy Reekie, Senior Manager for Consumer Communications, to find out more about how it all came together.

Lizzie and Andy

Lizzie and Andy

How did the idea come about?

Andy: The process started four months ago when we appointed the advertising agency AMV BBDO for both Virgin Holidays and Virgin Atlantic, with the ambition of benefiting from working closer together. Testing multiple concepts with consumers across all our markets led us to the ‘Above the Clouds’ idea, which we feel really helps us to showcase what makes us special.

Lizzie: The campaign idea had to be single minded and enduring, whilst also appealing to business customers as well as leisure customers. Flying with Virgin is a departure from the everyday travel experience and, simply put, we wanted to bring to life the amazing feeling of flying with us.

How the does the new ad set us apart from other airlines?

Lizzie: They may fly to more places or get you there more cheaply, but the experience you have with us is unlike any that you can get on other airlines. Time and time again when you ask people what they love about Virgin, they can’t put their finger on just one thing but instead talk about the ‘Virgin-ness’. It’s all about a feeling – interacting with our crew, or the little touches like ice-creams at film time or Love Heart sweets for landing. They all serve as reminders that flying is something we should enjoy, not endure. The new ad brings that world to life – it’s always sunny above the clouds, and when you fly with us you leave all those ‘blah’ airlines behind.

What pressure did you feel to get it right?

Lizzie: Working for a brand like Virgin Atlantic does come with added pressure as it has such a rich heritage of great advertising. We’ve not been on TV for a couple of years, so we really wanted to come back with a bang and create a campaign that resonates with consumers across all our markets … no pressure there then!

How much creative freedom did our agency and the director have with the approach? Did you need to reign them in at all?

Andy: AMV are a great agency to work with, with some of the best creative minds in the business, and we like to give them as much creative freedom as possible so they can push us to the edge of our comfort zones. However, as with any creative process we need to balance that with the realities of our business, so there are always times when we need to reign them in a little. It’s a very collaborative process where we have lots of open and honest conversations with them along the way.

What’s your favourite moment of the advert?

Lizzie: The business passenger falling through the clouds – it looks effortless in the ad and the music makes it really pack a punch, but in reality there was an actor being suspended on a crane 20m in the air in a harness flailing his limbs around on the roof of a Ukrainian superclub, trying to look serene. All in a day’s work for him though I guess!

Did we face any unexpected challenges on the shoot?

Andy: I think time pressure was a major challenge, as we had to set the shoot up in record time and ship all the equipment we needed to recreate an aircraft in Kiev in a couple of weeks. This involved a huge amount of support from a wide range of teams from around the business, with a few favours along the way!

How did our cabin crew get on?

Andy: They were a pleasure to work with from start to finish – hugely professional and fun to be around for what was a very long week in Kiev (early starts and often not finishing until past midnight). It means a huge amount to us to have our real crew in the advertising – it brings integrity to our work as we know it’s them that really makes the experience so special at 38,000 feet!

And as for our crew members Otis, Rhys, Pam, Jade and Gemma, the week in Kiev certainly proved to be a break from the norm. We chatted to them before the advert launched, and began by asking what they’ll remember from the experience and how it felt to star in something that would soon be seen by millions.

“I’m still in shock that I got chosen!” said Gemma. “The reason I wanted to take part was to visit a new destination, step out of my comfort zone and experience something completely different. I didn’t really think about the fact that’s it going to be on TV, and friends and family outside of Virgin will actually see it it! We honestly had the best time over in Ukraine, so it’s lovely to see the end product and remember creating it.”

“I feel so lucky to have been picked to appear in the advert,” Rhys added. “Watching Virgin Atlantic adverts in the past always made me want to work for the company, so appearing in one now is crazy.”

This video shows the photoshoot of our supporting adverts including Patrice and Gary from our office based teams

“What surprised me most about the whole process was just how many hardworking and talented people were involved in producing the advert, and how many hours it took to create the finished, polished product at the end,” said Pam. “People were literally working around the clock – building the set, making ‘ice cream’, being chaperones and driving us around, and ensuring everyone was in the right place at the right time. There were 72 extras, and the aircraft was on hydraulics in order for it to shift a full 30 degrees to each side. I do aerial hoops in my spare time, so for me the best bit was having my own stunt man Sergio and being on wires for a scene where the aircraft rig actually tips to the side. That was so much fun!”

As Otis explains, due to the technicality of some of the shots that were filmed, a bespoke 787 cabin interior was made, using genuine seats and materials so that it looks just like a real aircraft. And the finished result? Amazing. “It was a great opportunity to be a part of this advert and show the world that Virgin Atlantic is still the coolest airline above the clouds.”

About Dave Gunner

Dave is the co-editor of Ruby, the Virgin Atlantic Blog. He has worked at Virgin Atlantic for over two decades. In that time he has amassed some truly epic memories but never lost his fascination with the airline world. Dave's on a mission to bring you some great insights into our people, planes and planet.
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