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Virgin Trains use of stunts and live advertising

Virgin Trains use of stunts and live advertising

Manning Gottlieb OMD campaign 


‘Ditch the Plane, Take the Train’

Travelling on a Virgin Trains is now a faster and better alternative to flying.

Being Virgin, we felt it was our duty to show domestic plane travellers the error of their ways and convince them to swap the pain of plane travel for the joys of train travel.


Travel behaviour is habitual, making the task of converting flyers to the train a huge challenge.  Hardened, loyal flyers don’t listen to reason and only when face to face with the evidence would they listen.

Humour and surprise were identified as the key drivers that would force this reappraisal. In a stunt inspired by the Thomas Crown Affair, we booked four teams of ten actors onto BA and BMI flights from Manchester to London. 

At eight relevant moments during the journey, they used printed T-Shirts to publicly expose the inferior plane experience and publicly praise the benefits of Virgin Trains.


T-shirt messages were tailored to particular moments during the journey, highlighting common flying frustrations.  ‘Don’t stand for it’ appeared at check-in, ‘Bored or boarding’ in departures, and ‘Land in the city centre’ at taxi ranks.  

A chef (with Chef’s hat) promoted ‘Superior breakfasts on Virgin Trains’ when drinks were served, a very tall person encouraged travellers to ‘Stretch your legs on Virgin Trains’, and a very small person announced ‘Shorter journey times on Virgin Trains’.

This was a cheeky stunt, designed to make fellow travellers laugh while engaging them with our message.  In targeting domestic flyers during the course of their journey, we were able to place our message where, and to whom it mattered most.

As for the airlines themselves, staff reactions only served to add fuel to our fire.  BA and BMI were forced to take out a press release, defending their dignity and service.


The stunt was witnessed by 500 flyers first-hand, but its impact extended way beyond this. BA rose brilliantly to the bait and ‘flew off the handle’.  Their consternation and annoyance was reported in four national newspapers. 

The stunt also generated widespread publicity across online news services and marketing journals.

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