Virgin Mobile flaunts number portability victory

Kicking off with typical Bransonian flair, the initiative was teased last week by sending chocolate handcuffs and get-out-of-jail postcards to the influentsia. Next up: Sir Richard will make like Houdini in downtown Toronto.

When Virgin Mobile launched in Canada two years ago, Sir Richard Branson vowed to change the regulatory environment and allow mobile users to keep their cell numbers if they changed carriers. Now it’s happening.

And Virgin is playing it up to the hilt. An exceptionally clever integrated campaign has been spun out of a recent survey in which more than 40% of Canadian respondents said, if they could retain their mobile numbers, they would switch phone companies. To facilitate, Virgin’s Toronto-based AOR Zig concocted creative that poses Virgin Mobile as a freedom fighter bent on liberating a potential five million Canadians with Wireless Number Portability (WNP).

To kick off the PR component of the campaign, Toronto-based Hill & Knowlton Canada sent out chocolate handcuffs and get-out-of-jail postcards announcing an upcoming stunt by Virgin’s flashy founder. Exactly what Branson will do in downtown Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square during a ‘Great Escape’ on March 13 is top secret, but it will symbolize getting out of ‘mobile jail.’

A lively microsite,, was launched, complete with a countdown clock ticking away the seconds until WNP arrives in Canada on March 14. The site gives visitors tips on how to switch carriers, invites them to register for a personal reminder when their current contracts are about to expire, and even lets them send emails to notify friends and family about WNP’s arrival.

With media components of Virgin Mobile’s awareness campaign being handled by Toronto’s Jeff Wills & Co., wild ‘Freedom Day’ postings are going up in key metropolitan areas across Canada. And print ads will soon appear featuring the same countdown that’s featured on the website (no other details were released by MiC‘s press deadline).