Legal threat forces Virgin to drop ads

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The Independent Online

Richard Branson's Virgin Direct financial services business last night dramatically dropped its current advertising campaign in the face of legal action by one of its rivals.

Virgin's recently launched Corporate Bond PEP was advertised by making unflattering use of four of its rivals' corporate logos.

The advertisements were withdrawn immediately after Bradford & Bingley Building Society sent a solicitor's letter threatening legal action if the campaign continued.

The space booked for Virgin's advertisements in the weekend press will now contain just a line or two of text explaining why the full advertisements have been dropped, and inferring that they have been too near the truth for comfort.

The campaign seized on Virgin's rivals and showed the Barclays Bank imperial eagle minus its feathers, the National and Provincial Building Society's provident yellow bee nose-diving into the ground, and Lloyds Bank's legendary black horse lying on its back with its hooves in the air.

Lloyds took the campaign's irreverence in relatively good part, according to Virgin's media spokesman, Will Holt, suggesting that Virgin target National Westminster Bank instead.

But Bradford & Bingley, personified by that dapper double act, Mr Bradford and Mr Bingley, took objection to an advertisement showing them being unceremoniously swept off their feet by the force of the Virgin competition, their trademark bowler hats blowing in the wind.

Virgin believes that the response to its campaign shows that it was succeeding in its aim of making fun of its established rivals and targeting its own campaign at traditional customers of the banks and building societies.