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Marketer: Virgin Money

Agency: iLeo, Sydney

Virgin plays on plastic surgery and plastic money for a memorable entry to Australia's financial-services market.

Virgin's launch into Australia's financial-services market called for a campaign that convinced consumers of the company's credibility while remaining true to Virgin's maverick style.

Publicis Groupe's iLeo, Sydney, took a "plastic-surgery" theme, playing on the word "plastic"-slang for credit cards-while getting across a serious message.

The highly integrated $7.8 million TV, print, radio and direct-marketing campaign subverted the familiar "before" and "after" plastic-surgery photos. The direct-marketing component was ranked the most-awarded direct-marketing campaign in the world in 2004 by the Won Report, a compilation of direct-marketing award-show winners.

In the ads, a fat man, a flat-chested woman and an ugly guy look exactly the same in both shots, except that in the "after" pose, they are smiling. Lines such as "liposuction for interest rates," "massive rewards implants" and "remove unsightly annual fees" neatly encapsulated Virgin's message. The TV spot featured a cameo by Virgin founder Richard Branson dressed up as a surgeon.

Joel Norton, group business director, iLeo Sydney, said, "The basic premise was that we were reshaping the credit-card market with a no-compromise product. Virgin took advantage of public dissatisfaction with unpopular credit-card fees and charges to shake people out of their resistance to change."

After 10 months, Virgin Money had exceeded the first year's customer target by 240%. Overall response rates for direct marketing, TV and print exceeded targets by 316%.

This month the iLeo agency is being rebranded across Asia as Ark.