Virgin Produced is a content development and production company, which I co-founded in 2010 along with Richard Branson and actor-turned-producer Justin Berfield. Over the past six years we’ve participated in the making and/or marketing of 10 feature films, including the hits Limitless, Immortals and most recently, Bad Moms. We’ve also produced numerous short-form videos and are about to launch our first digital television series.
Being part of the Virgin family brings tremendous opportunities, but also a huge responsibility to represent the Virgin brand in everything we do. At Virgin Produced we take seriously the idea that our brand in entertainment specifically stands for quality, innovation, irreverence and social responsibility. And we’ve learned from experience that consumers expect a very specific type of content from a Virgin-branded entertainment company.
For instance, when it comes to comedy, it’s fine to be subversive but not inappropriate. There’s also an expectation that we will lead trends rather than follow them, and that we will focus on commercial, highly marketable concepts. So we lean toward sci-fi and action thrillers, and away from horror films and period pieces, which just don’t fit the brand. For us, it’s all about maintaining the consumer’s trust that anything they get from Virgin Produced is going to be emblematic of the brand as a whole: It’s going to be high-quality; it’s going to be cool; and it’s going to be fun.
A perfect example is the feature film Limitless, a thriller centered on a top-secret brain-enhancing drug that imbues a struggling writer with superhuman abilities — but comes with dangerous consequences. Starring Bradley Cooper, Anna Friel, Robert De Niro and Abbie Cornish, the film’s fresh, high-concept plot and kinetic visual style won over critics and audiences alike.
It’s a family affair
Our relationship with the Virgin brand goes much deeper than the types of feature projects we greenlight, however. Because our output is not limited by physical boundaries — our content is available in every corner of the globe — we are one of just two operating companies that have the potential to collaborate with all of our brother and sister companies worldwide. (The other is Virgin Unite, the charitable arm, which educates and empowers Virgin Group entities to use their power for good.)
One of the ways we add value to our corporate siblings is by producing compelling branded entertainment pieces such as the mega-viral “Virgin America Safety Video.” The cheeky, dance-infused in-flight instruction film, directed by Hollywood filmmaker Jon Chu (Now You See Me 2), has been viewed well over 11 million times on YouTube. Add in the onboard viewings and that translates to 727 million media impressions and $19 million in ad equivalency value — all from a video that tells passengers how to buckle their seatbelts.
At the same time, being part of the Virgin family helps us differentiate ourselves from our competitors in the entertainment business. After all, what other studio has an airline, a burgeoning hotel chain, a mobile phone carrier and a cruise line in its family tree? Through the fierce brand loyalty of their customers and their global reach, our fellow Virgin companies help us “eventize” our film and television releases, just as our content provides a unique experience for a Virgin airline passenger, mobile phone subscriber or hotel guest.
Bad Moms, great campaigns
A great illustration of how we leverage our internal and external relationships to deliver massive value to all the Virgin companies is the cross-promotional marketing campaign we built for Bad Moms. Our “Bad Moms Night Out with Virgin America” activation generated 44 million media impressions. Other activations included a fly-away contest for a trip to the premiere in Los Angeles (Virgin America), contests to win run-of-engagement tickets in various cities across the U.S. (Virgin Mobile and Virgin Hotels), as well as blog posts and a Virgin.com homepage takeover that generated an additional 300,000 impressions.
As proud as we are of generating numbers like that that, we remain first and foremost an entertainment company — a direct descendent of Virgin Records, the fiercely independent music label Richard built back in 1972. At Virgin Produced we strive to maintain that spirit of innovation and collaboration as we bring together the best filmmaking talent, irresistible content and a singular brand to deliver marketing value to our business partners and unforgettable experiences to our audiences.
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