Ben gives something back.
"The gift giving process is a very vulnerable process," says Merkin, who explains that the campaign evolved from the idea that Virgin's no strings, upfront service had parallels in romantic relationships. As the tag says, a Virgin Mobile phone is "The gift with nothing to hide."
The campaign, directed by Supply & Demand's Tony Kaye, is the agency's first major effort since Merkin took over the creative department in July. Since then -- following the high-profile departures of Kevin Roddy, Linus Karlsson and Paul Malmstrom -- Merkin and agency president Anne Bologna have built the department from the ground up with seven new hires. "It's been a fun ride," Merkin says. "I've been hiring the next generation of Fallon right here in New York. These guys are immensely talented, driven as hell, and on the cusp of doing the best work of their careers."
As for the difference between the Virgin campaign and the gratuitous sex that has lately fallen out of favor with marketers like Miller, Merkin says the ads don't use "nudity for the sake of nudity." "It's nudity to make a point, and the point is that this is a cellphone company with no secrets, with nothing to hide," he says. "We were looking to capture that emotional vulnerability -- not just the physical nudity but the emotional nudity. There's something very liberating about appearing on television and sharing your feelings with someone you love in front of the entire television audience. We just wanted to attach that to the attributes of the phone in a signifcant way, and in an attention-getting way."