There are several basic “rules” to follow when marketing your brand. These include time-tested standbys such as “stay on message,” “be brief,” and of course, “always be closing.” One company has decided to buck one of these well-understood and well worn laws of selling in the form of a five hour and forty-six minute long advertisement. Virgin America now has a nearly six-hours-long commercial, about the length of an entire flight from Newark to San Francisco. This is more than just a video, however. Virgin has built an entire campaign building themselves up as the opposite of aptly titled “BLAH Airlines” and has even set up an online presence for the fictional airlines.
Virgin No Stranger To Uncommon Tactics
This sort of stunt isn’t uncommon for Virgin America. The airline routinely sets themselves up as the alternative airline down to the purple cabin lights and fashion-forward uniform of its staff. Head of Virgin Group, Richard Branson, which oversees Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Galactic, and other properties, even recently announced the trial of a new program which allows employees to take unlimited vacation whenever they want. The six hour commercial may not be as risky as giving employees free-reign to leave whenever they wish, but it’s certainly just as unconventional.

No Need To Be Brief
To begin, the video certainly isn’t brief. At five hours and forty-six minutes long, it’s likely viewing the commercial in its entirety will become a challenge or the terms of a lost bet. The video tells the story of a bland-looking mannequin as he flies across the country from take-off to landing. You’ll see the common cliches of air travel, including a crying baby, talkative neighbors, and in-flight movies which are just too far to see. There are no montages and there are no quick cuts, though there is a trippy dream sequence. In other words, the entire six hours is dedicated to the monotony of a cross-country flight.
Apart from being two hours shy of the common American workday, Virgin also bucks some traditional advertising ideals in another way. The entire focus of the spot is a competing airline, albeit a fictional one. BLAH Airlines isn’t just mentioned by name; Virgin spent the time to create a website, (it takes forever to load) a social presence, (they respond with inept and boiler plate messages) and a hotline replete with long menus and delay notices. Virgin makes some appearances in the campaign, but little more than a few cameos. By creating the most bland and boring brand, they allow their color and vibrancy to shine in comparison.
Let Your Brand Shine By Comparison
The standard rules of marketing are followed for a reason. They act as a safe bet, and by adhering to them you know you’ll see success. It doesn’t hurt to fight against these traditions from time to time, however, as Virgin America has often shown. What’s more, Virgin shows that it’s important to stick to the personality of your brand and not be afraid to let that character show through. Laws and traditions by themselves should not be what stops you from letting people see your company for what it is.