Virgin Mobile Cheap Text Ads From Flickr

Virgin Mobile in Australia asks “Are you with us or what?” in a print, out of home, radio and online campaign using photographs posted on the social website, Flickr. The campaign promotes the free text service available between Virgin Mobile customers. Look carefully and you’ll see that each execution has a credit to the Flickr address.

Novelty ringtones are the lowest form of self expression

One print advertisement reads “Regret Messages Sent After 2 am”. It may turn out that Virgin will regret using the Flickr images, now that the company is being threatened with legal action. Dallas teenager Alison Chang and her family have sued Virgin over what they claim to be grief and humiliation suffered when Alison’s photograph was associated with the tagline, “Virgin to Virgin”, and “Dump your pen friend”. The original photograph, taken by Justin Ho-Wee Wong, was posted on the Yahoo-owned photography site.

Virgin Mobile’s new advertising campaign is the start of Virgin’s long term repositioning, planned for the next 12 to 18 months. The new campaign is a shift back to Virgin’s roots as a challenger brand, and the tagline “Are you with us or what?” is a recognition of the desire of its customers to make well-informed decisions and provide them with an alternative mobile offer.

“This is a bigger and broader positioning and more encompassing. We are more grown up. Being a youth specialist is too narrowing. We are more about having a youthful attitude than a youthful age – it’s aspirational,” said Rich Field, Virgin Mobile’s brand general manager.

If talk is cheap texts should be slightly slutty

Regret messages sent after 2 am Text should be free like deodorant for cabbies

How you drive a hire car Talking to the boss while in the toilet

According to Roy Morgan, as of December last year, Virgin Mobile held a 4% market share among the mobile players, not far behind 3 mobile, which has a 6% share. Among the big players, Telstra has 44%, Optus (which owns Virgin Mobile in Australia) 25% and Vodafone 14%.

Talking to the boss while in the toilet While realistically Virgin Mobile has no ambition of beating the big two players, Field said it does consider Vodafone to be its main rival, with the brand not only sharing the same red colour in its logo, but as it is also seen as an “edgy, cool and different” brand.

Field said Virgin Mobile’s new campaign’s tagline “Are you with us or what?” will for the first time be maintained in the longer term – at least the next 12 to 18 months.

“This tagline is a call to action, challenging the market and customers to agree or disagree. It’s asking for interaction and for consumers to make a well-informed decision,” Field said.

The exclusion of TV in the media schedule for such a major campaign is a first for the brand.

“Media costs on TV are ever increasing – the rates are exorbitant. It’s harder for media owners to justify that money for a fragmenting audience.”

The campaign will be a departure from the highly awarded and often TV-driven creative executions the brand has become known for over the years, with the successful “Don’t Call Jason Donovan”, “5 Cent”, “Ming Mong” and “Virgin to Virgin” Warren campaigns.

“The new campaign is only the start of the repositioning on of an offer and execution level. Initially this is about getting people aware of the campaign. And then we will grow from there,” Field said.


The Virgin Mobile ‘Are You With Us’ campaign was developed at Host, with creative work provided by The Glue Society (James Dive, James Harvey, Jonathan Kneebone). Virgin Mobile Australia marketing staff included Rich Field and Dave Cain.

  • michael quill

    really like the campaign guys, am doing a simliar task at uni at the moment, and some is this stuff is awesome

  • gillian

    Virgin used my photo for the one captioned “you should be able to send texts…”. Except I only found this out because a user on Flickr in Australia commented on my original photo about it. But thanks for posting a photo of the billboard, because I hadn’t seen one yet.

  • Hi Gillian. Looks as though there’s a few in the same boat as you. There’s some discussion at Flickr Groups Central over the need for Virgin and Host to get a model release before using the photographs.

  • I think the folks who developed this campaign dropped the ball by using Flickr photos. No matter what happens Virgin is looking cheap in some circles for ripping off Flickr photos.

  • A cheap campaign for cheap texts?

  • It won’t look so cheap when they get sued for not using model releases for the people featured in some of the photographs 😉

  • B

    They used the photos from a website which sold the rights to use the photos. It is all legal 🙂

  • DrS
  • More on the suit which also names CC.

  • Pete

    People, do not share your pictures if you don’t want people to use them. Simple as that! If you decide share, read the terms and conditions (yes, the boring small print) and there will be much less surprises.

  • Tamara

    To the people that say using Flickr photos makes Virgin look cheap, they are cheap. They never answer the phone, they never respond to emails, they only just added 3G, and many more reasons to show that Virgin are a terrible mobile company.