When Other Marketers Are the Ad's 'Talent'

Xerox Ads Features Virgin America, Michelin, Target to Tout Services

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A small but growing airline, Virgin America has never run a national TV campaign. But it's found a way into someone else's -- without paying a cent.

Virgin America gets a shout-out via Xerox.
Virgin America gets a shout-out via Xerox.

Virgin is the latest to be featured in Xerox Corp.'s global campaign touting its business services with spots that use client icons such as Target 's Bullseye mascot, Procter & Gamble's Mr. Clean and the Michelin man. The clients don't pay for the ads; to bring them on board, Xerox talks up free exposure, while promising to stay true to their image. "We are joined at the hip throughout the process," said Barbara Basney, Xerox's VP-global advertising. "It is paramount to us that they are very happy with how we are representing the brand."

The Virgin America ad plugs how Xerox manages some of the airline's call centers by exaggerating what would happen if the airline were left to run the operation on its own. As flight attendants run a call center in a jet cabin, the ad notes: it's better for Virgin to "focus on making flying cool again." The campaign is by Xerox's agency of record, WPP's Y&R.

Look for the Michelin Man in Xerox's new print ads.
Look for the Michelin Man in Xerox's new print ads.

Virgin's iconic pink mood lighting as well as its flight attendants' small bow when serving food are both represented in the ad. An extra bonus: Xerox's media buy targets business people, which happens to be the same audience Virgin wants to buy tickets. "We have pretty lean advertising budgets," said Abby Lunardini, Virgin's VP-corporate communications. It was a way to "amplify our awareness as we grow."

Does Xerox worry its message gets drowned out? "Our eyes were wide open" to that risk, Ms. Basney said. But she said the juxtaposition of using two brands at once is meant to disrupt perceptions that Xerox only sells products, not services. "It's cutting through, it's being noticed."

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