Sold?: Virgin Atlantic hark back to a sexier time for business

January 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Word on the street is that folks are opting for cheaper pastimes these days as we find ourselves in the midst of a financial crisis. Yep, it seems that most of us are leaving the wallets untouched and staying at home for some good old fashioned slap and tickle. It’s cheaper than going out, cheers us up and, for a short while at least, makes us forget the here and now. Cue the new Virgin Atlantic campaign.

Set in 1984 on June 22nd, the day of Virgin Atlantic’s first ever flight, it’s all brick phones, shoulder pads and power music about orgasms as it harks back to a more hopeful, fresher and sexier time for the airline’s business. Men dribble, burgers ejaculate and children look upon in wonder at the red-clad crew consisting of a pilot and a host of buxom ladies bring the otherwise dull airport to a virtual standstill.

Never mind the predictions that airline revenues will drop considerably this year, the ad employs the ever reliable selling point that is sex, sex, sex combined with a bucketful of nostalgia. Get horny, not depressed about the recession say Virgin as they do their darndest to ensure that we’re all caught up in the heady days of eighties air travel cocky and salivating like Top Gun’s Maverick clambering out of his F-14 Tomcat before a lesson with his hot female instructor.

But is the ad’s ego simply writing cheques its company can’t cash? Ok so their advert contains some enormously good-looking people but in the current economic climate are Virgin Atlantic actually still quite as red hot as they were back in their heyday? Maybe people are too busy having sex, associating it with getting on a plane and buying Virgin tickets to care.

By Susan Allen

Carolyn says:

Oh for heaven’s sake Mervyn and Vicky, get a grip and a sense of humour. I am willing to bet that I am older than both of you, have lived with and survived worse sexism in the workplace and am more of a feminist than either of you. Get over yourselves. There are far more important battles to be waged than complaining about a funny ad that relies on nostalgia. Sheesh!

Vicky says:

Merryn. Well done. This ad is a total step back for all feminism’s hard work over the years. What a bloody joke!

Keep it in your pants guys and get some self-respect Virgin female staff. Don’t play up to the dumb doll stereotype. You’re more than objects to be leered at and guys can just bloody well deal with it.

Merryn Smith says:

As with so much unimaginative media today, this ad hides its bigotry under its ‘retro’ theme, safely tucking itself into a time when women workers were unprotected from sexual harassment in the workplace. In so doing; RKCR and Virgin promote a work culture where women are demonised if they do not measure up to sexist stereotypes of femininity and often subject to harassment if they do. The representation of workers as providing sexual gratification for others not only promotes workplace harassment but a culture whereby people are expected not only to be proficient at what they do but are tacitly expected to ‘please’ clients in other ways, (i.e. wearing make up, tight outfits, not objecting to harassment etc). It is a dark day when workers and women’s rights are so degraded, particularly as the early 1980’s was a time when women and workers all over the world were fighting for anti discrimination and sexual harassment laws to be implemented, lest we forget. The steward’s role as a valued professional member of staff and the occupation of service industries that are predominately made up of a female workforce are completely devalued here. This is made explicit within the advertisement when the line of young white airline stewards come face to face with older less glamorised women stewards and the viewer is left to surmise that these women have been included in the add to represent the staff of Virgins competitors. The script writers make this point clear through the dialogue given to a gawping white male onlooker as he states that he ‘need(s) to change (his) ticket’. Are Virgin seriously stating that they can and will guarantee that ‘their’ female stewards do, or will be made to, conform to these representations? Were the Virgin steward staff consulted by RKCR and Virgin as to how they would like to represented within the media? The value and position of everyday working women is dangerously reduced here to providing men with sexual titillation. Of course RKCR and Virgin will claim that this is all in jest and if you don’t get the ‘joke’ you’re a part of the P.C. gone mad brigade. What is truly disrespectful is how painful this advertisement could be for the existing Virgin Atlantic steward workforce who have not only had their occupation so reduced by their superiors but who will now be inevitably sized up by passengers and compared to these deplorable representations. And as if that isn’t enough, RKCR have received advertising contracts from the Home Office for their anti Prostitution, Domestic Violence, Child Protection on the Internet and Anti Rape campaigns as well for Oxfam! Just what the RKCR add for workplace harassment would be like makes the mind boggle.