Virgin Mobile Gets Religion

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A teen consults her pastor about Virgin Mobile.
Are wireless service contracts immoral? They are according to a new Virgin Mobile campaign from Fallon/New York, in which teens question various religious and moral leaders about the ethics of cellphone plans. In one spot, we see a woman consulting her pastor about whether Virgin's "pay as you go" pricing will get the company into heaven. "So where would the other companies go?" she wonders. The spot ends with images of winged phones, a haloed Virgin logo and a gospel tune.

Other spots in the campaign -- which was directed by Biscuit Filmworks' Tim Godsall -- feature similar conversations with a Buddhist monk, a rabbi and a starchy politician. All strange people to consult for a demographic that marketers usually court with quick-cut paeans to non-conformity, and for a brand that ran a holiday campaign featuring nude testimonials. "We have some nerve," admits Fallon/New York ECD Ari Merkin. "After shooting naked people in the streets of New York, to now be the voice of morality in wireless. But to us, these approaches are perfectly aligned. They're both about morality."

The holiday campaign touted Virgin as a phone company with "nothing to hide," and the new campaign takes other wireless companies to task for hidden fees and misleading sales tactics. "Virgin Mobile has a point to make," Merkin says. "We're essentially trying to make that point through these religious figures and moral leaders by getting their endorsement -- their acknowledgment that 'pay as you go' is the more moral path in wireless." Of course, as with the "Nothing to Hide" campaign, the use of religious authorities in such a context is likely to stir controversy, particularly when paired with outdoor featuring (some might say) mocking lines like "Virgin Mobile is my co-pilot." Merkin, however, insists that while the campaign sticks it to the man, it's not to the men in the commercials. "The politician and the clergy aren't the butt of the joke," he says. "The butt of the joke is other wireless companies."

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