Best practice from Eulogy!
When Virgin Media started planning its own UK digital television channel, Virgin 1, it asked Eulogy! to launch the channel to the media trade press and get advertisers and production companies interested. The team embarked on a “shock and awe” strategy, bombarding the target media with exciting news, organising an exclusive media roundtable with Virgin chairman Sir Richard Branson, and placing profiles in every leading media trade title.
Virgin Media was the first company in the UK to offer a combined broadband, digital television, phone and mobile package to consumers. In late 2006, its Virgin Media Television division started work on exciting plans to launch the first Virgin-branded TV channel, Virgin 1, in the UK.
The plan was to launch the channel in autumn 2007. It would be available to UK viewers through the Freeview and Virgin Media digital platforms, as well as satellite, cable and broadband on-demand. This was the first time Virgin Media Television had offered a significant channel on Freeview.
In its first piece of work for Virgin Media, communications agency Eulogy! was tasked with launching the channel to a trade and business audience. The aim was to drive interest and long-term commitment from advertisers and commercial sponsors. The campaign had to succeed against the backdrop of an ongoing high-profile dispute between Virgin Media and Sky over Sky’s refusal to make the Sky One channel available to Virgin Media customers.
Eulogy! worked with Virgin Media Television’s in-house PR team and senior management to develop strategic messaging and positioning for the new channel. The positioning of the channel centred around its launch on Freeview, which would be the first time Virgin Media had offered a significant channel on the platform, significantly increasing the potential size of the audience for advertisers.
The team adopted a strategy to only release minimal information when the first announcement about the channel was made, to allow for a consistent flow of news leading up to launch night. Key messages included:
· Virgin 1 will be a noisy, unconventional general entertainment channel aimed at all 20 million digital homes
· V1 will be a breath of fresh air on Freeview
· The audience will be 25-54 with a slight male bias. They will be identified more by their attitude than age or gender
· V1 has been in planning for nearly a year and is not connected to the dispute with Sky - V1 isn’t a replacement for Sky One
· Launching a Freeview channel is the best strategy for Virgin Media Television to grow its audience and advertising revenue.
The initial launch announcement was made to the media on 11 June 2007. In the following months, Eulogy! released a succession of announcements about Virgin1 to the media and advertising trade media, including its programme acquisitions and commissions, online activity, branding and marketing.
The approach was supported by placing thought leadership and comment profile pieces for Virgin Media Television’s senior management team and the wider Virgin team. The team made 17 announcements in total. All news and profiles were planned so advertisers and media agencies would get excited about Virgin Media Television’s acquisition of blockbuster hits, and encouraged by its investment in new and original content.
The consumer press launch, organised by consumer agency Taylor Herring, took place at Sir Richard Branson’s home in Oxfordshire on 1 October 2007. Eulogy! worked closely with the agency to ensure that the trade and business journalists were included and engaged in the event.
On launch day, the Eulogy! team facilitated a media roundtable event attended by Virgin chairman Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Media Television boss Johnny Webb, exclusively for key journalists from Broadcast, Marketing Week, the Daily Telegraph, the Times, the Guardian, the Hollywood Reporter and the Independent on Sunday.
The trade and business media campaign was the main communications channel to reach potential advertisers, and it worked: Eulogy’s sustained effort raised awareness about Virgin1 among advertisers and helped the sales team secure programme sponsorship deals with car manufacturer Vauxhall, and leading computer retailer PC World. Virgin1 also struck an exclusive deal with leading media agency ZenithOptimedia to book the opening night advertising slots on the channel for its prestigious clients, including British Airways, L’Oreal and Lexus. Many of the original advertisers have continued to support the channel.
On 1 October 2007, Virgin 1 launched with a peak audience of 422,000 viewers. The channel’s bosses wanted to be in the top three non-terrestrial channels, and the audience for the first showing of ‘The Riches’ made it the number one non-terrestrial channel on opening night.
Between the announcement and launch night, Virgin 1 was in the news every week. The media roundtable event resulted in widespread coverage and a buzz on publication websites and blogs. The campaign generated 122 pieces of coverage in the target media, reaching a total readership of 17m. More than 80% of the coverage communicated all the key messages. Eulogy! beat the target of two profile pieces by securing positive and detailed profiles of Virgin Media directors in five key trade publications: Campaign, Marketing, Televisual, Revolution, as well the media supplement of the Independent newspaper.
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