RECOMMENDED LINK | Marketing Comms | Advertising: Virgin Mobile USA this weekend pulled an advert that seemed to make light of rape after Virgin chief Richard Branson publicly criticised the online commercial. Branson’s Virgin Group does not currently own the Virgin-branded mobile network in the States.
The offending ad spot featured a man, who was holding a gift and covering the eyes of a woman. The strapline ran: “The gift of Christmas surprise. Necklace? Or chloroform?” Many hit out at the supposedly comedic implication that the man might be planning an attack against the woman.
As critics voiced their anger on the social networks, Branson posted on his Virgin blog: “Having just seen, for the first time, the Virgin Mobile USA advert which has upset many today, I agree it is ill-judged. Although I don’t own the company, it carries our brand. I will speak to the team there, make my thoughts clear and see what can be done about it. Virgin Mobile USA usually get these things right, although on this occasion it is clear they have gone too far”.
The offending ad was soon taken offline, with Branson subsequently revealing that his contacts at the Virgin Mobile US company had acknowledged the promo image was “a dreadful mistake”. Meanwhile a spokeswoman for the tel co, bought by Sprint Nextel Corporation in 2009, said: “This image was not approved by Virgin Mobile USA. We apologise deeply to anyone who has been offended by this posting. It was removed early this morning”.