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Wednesday, Apr. 2, 2008

Why Virgin’s Banner Ads Work, Even on Facebook!

By Peter Lee
April 2nd, 2008

Virgin America mood lightingTraditional banner ads can be frustrating. They’re easy to ignore. And all too often, the landing page on the other side of the click doesn’t fulfill the promise of the ad.

So why not try something new, like placing an ad on Facebook, where captive users are forced to see it right there in their news feeds?

That’s Virgin America‘s strategy. But is it anything new?

Despite the hype, social media ads are rarely different than traditional banner or pay-per-click ads. The landscape has changed slightly, but the need for fundamental persuasion and conversion tactics remains. As always, better planning makes all the difference. Let’s take a look…

A Smooth Takeoff

Here’s Virgin’s latest “sponsored news feed item” — i.e., fancy contextual banner ad that targets only certain demographics:

Virgin America Facebook advertising

As you can see, the language is simple and engaging. A time limit (March 28) is set, thus creating a sense of urgency without drilling it into the customer’s head.

Nobody likes to be yelled at, especially not on an airplane. So why yell at them to “BUY NOW”? Virgin knows better, and this ad’s subtlety makes it that much more click-worthy.

A Soft Landing (Page)

The landing page continues the scent trail that started with the banner ad. Notice how the exact wording carries over.

Virgin America homepage

See that? Change may be “in the air,” but Virgin was smart to stick with their original verbiage.

What’s even more interesting is that this landing page is actually the homepage. It was the homepage last week, when the March 28 promotion was happening, anyway. This week, there’s a new promotion, and a new homepage message to match.

Consistency across channels is what ensures the success of Virgin’s ad buys. By adjusting the homepage to match their current campaigns, they’re capitalizing on the persuasive momentum of their various banner ad campaigns. (This screen shot proves that Virgin’s Facebook ads are no different than any of their other banners. Would they change the company’s homepage just to match a persuasion scenario that starts at Facebook? Nope.)

Persuade → Qualify Convert

Virgin America continues the momentum from click-to-click by keeping it simple and keeping visitors engaged on the active window. By showing all March 28-related promotions on a single page, they’re reduce friction in the buying process.

Virgin America flight promotions

Virgin uses this page to reinforce the visitor’s original interest while introducing a few more offers, thereby qualifying our needs. We click through, and it’s off to the booking engine.

Like most e-commerce shopping carts, it seems flight-booking engines were made to confuse us. Not Virgin’s. Theirs is intuitive and straightforward. As you can see, several steps are combined into one. It’s the website usability equivalent of the magical airplane stall door lock (which doubles as a light switch, and triples as a switch for the fan).

Virgin America flight booking

The only downside to having a site that works this well is that now Virgin needs to make sure people enjoy the flight as much as they enjoyed booking it. But if the real experience is anything like the one online, it looks like they’ve got you covered.

CMO’s should take notice.

While there’s no such thing as a perfect website, you should still try to convert like a Virgin.

Add Your Comments

Comments (13)

  1. Peter I’ll vouch for the in-air experience. I had the pleasure of flying Virgin America to San Francisco last week when I went out to teach the Call to Action seminar. The seats, staff and food were incredible. I’m planning my next trip in May to take them again.

  2. Banner ads are a big challenge to make profitable, its good to see one that seems to understand that interruption marketing doesn’t need to be rude and invasive.
    GREAT analysis!
    I’ll take Bryan’s suggestion and consider Virgin for my next flight if you can get me off JetBlue.

  3. How do you know this strategy works? What are the results?

  4. Obviously “There Is A Reason” Sir Richard is a BILLIONARE!


  5. Peter (Koning),

    Good question. Although we don’t know their results per se, we know based on the results we’ve achieved for our clients that these tactics work. In fact, we have an entire product line based on scenario /scent trail planning and optimization.

    This post was meant as an observational analysis only, so we hope you don’t feel misled. If we can get some actual data (on conversion, ROI, etc.) from Virgin, we’ll definitely pass it along.

    Kind regards,
    -Editor, GrokDotCom

  6. [...] Bref, un site remarquable qui n’a pas laissé indifférent nos amis de chez GrokDotCom : Why Virgin’s Banner Ads Work, Even on Facebook! [...]

  7. Is actual result of this campaign not the only way to know its success? While following a tested and proven process suggests the likelihood of success, many variables impact campaign implementation. How well did the creative and offers
    match the needs and wants of potential buyers? How well did the marketers test, measure, and execute? How much did it cost?These variables impact ROI. If Virgin Airlines is willing to discuss the campaign, would this not be an interesting case study?

  8. I’ve learned to ignore the in-feed ads on Facebook already.

  9. The pricing transparency seems to be a must- have these days. I have zero patience for sites where the pricing details are obfuscated … nothing makes me bail on a site faster than if i have to dig to find the cost of whatever the service might be. The presentation of pricing seems to be perhaps THE most important visualization aspect of any site design, yet so few seem to be doing it well.

  10. Virgin is the best people loved brand on Earth.

    Great post Peter.

  11. Virgin is Smart! They even made a customer complain letter (London- Mumbai) into a funny ‘viral’ mail!

  12. marketing variables impact campaign implementation. How well did understand that interruption the creative whatever the. The presentation of pricing seems doesn’t need to be rude service might be

  13. [...] materials (ticket jacket, safety card, and seat menu) are consistent in writing tone with the print ads, banner ads and Web site. The tone is positioned as smart and humorous from the assumption that you’ve ridden a plane [...]

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