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Virgin Mobile’s “You Rule” ads do not, in fact, rule

We covered the Virgin Mobile“You Rule” ads last week, noting that they offended quite a few people, most notably on Staten Island. Then we heard rumblings that they misplaced a few ads. A billboard poking fun at Upper East Siders, intended for the Upper West Side, was mistakenly placed in the UES. So yeah, things didn’t start off so well for the new Virgin Mobile ad campaign.

Advertising copywriter Copyranter has an interesting, and what we think is accurate, take on the ad campaign as a whole:

But even if the Tar Heel copywriter had magically stumbled upon the perfect words that made every Gotham resident perfectly happy, the ads would still suck. Why? Replace Virgin Mobile’s logo with a Nike, Chase, Bud, Gawker, Trump or T-Mobile logo and, besides a slight copy tweak, nothing would have to be changed. The campaign lacks anything that ties it inexorably to Virgin Mobile—it could be for anybody and about anything. ‘You rule! Buy this ___ to rule more.’

We’re not in advertising, so this thought didn’t occur to us at first. So call us open to powerful suggestion, but this makes total sense. In order for an ad to be effective, it must tie into the product or service.

The only exception, as we see it, are comical 30-second interruption spots. You don’t want to see the ad in the first place, so some comic relief, followed by a quick sales pitch, can be effective for interruption marketing. However, for ads of Virgin’s ilk, you can’t just say anything and expect people to associate it with your product or service. People don’t have to look at your ad — there are thousands of others all around New York City.

Copyranter fully illustrates the problem: “I questioned a couple of ad acquaintances who had seen the ads. One remembered them being for Verizon and the other couldn’t remember who they were for…Nobody remembers the product.”

As we mentioned previously, Virgin plans to roll out this campaign to other cities. It was the father of modern advertising, John Wanamaker, who once said that “[h]alf the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” We thinks that Virgin might be able to quickly identify which half they’re wasting.

[Gawker]