Virgin America Lets Prospects “Test Drive” Their Airplane Seat Via Google Street View And Campaign

In a campaign handled by agency Eleven Inc., the airline seeks to differentiate itself from other carriers by highlighting its stylish and modern aircraft interiors.

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We’ve all seen criticisms of fast food marketing campaigns that feature photos of super-styled delicious-looking menu items — photos that bear absolutely no resemblance to the unappetizing-looking food that actually turns up in customers’ bags when they’re served.

Now Virgin America, the stylish relative newcomer to the US passenger air industry, is launching an outdoor and digital campaign that claims its competitors are doing the very same thing. The airline’s agency for the work is Eleven Inc.

“Most airlines promote new products and services that may in reality only be available on a small portion of their fleet — so travelers may see a flashy looking product in an advertisement, only to board their flight from Newark to California to discover they’re now stuck eating peanuts and staring at a 1980’s era cloth seatback for the next 5 1/2 hours,” said Virgin America Vice President of Brand and Communications Abby Lunardini. “Partnering with Google Maps allowed us to showcase the consistency of our award-winning product and service to consumers firsthand in an authentic way before they fly with us.”

To show these prospective customers that Virgin America is different, the airline is embracing transparency (a trend in the industry also adopted by Southwest Airlines) with a new interactive feature that lets travelers preview the aircraft and seat they’ll end up on before they pull the trigger on a purchase.

The 360-degree interactive “seat view” experience is powered by Google Street View and is available via the Google Maps interface, as well as via the airline’s website at the URL


Virgin America is promoting Street View on its home page, but the experience isn’t integrated into the website in the place it would make most sense — during the check-out process, when users are actually choosing a seat.


To see the Street View via Google Maps, one must search for “Virgin America” and the departure location. The result will offer users the opportunity to “look inside” and “street view.” The effort appears to be an extension of the Google Street View initiative to include photos inside of businesses, which enables companies to hire a “trusted” photographer to capture images that will be then included in Street View at no charge. However, Street View has heretofore been limited to businesses that stay in a single location.



It helps that Virgin America, having launched its business only in 2007, operates only one type of aircraft — the Airbus A320 — so the airline needs to provide just one street view to represent all of its flights at all of its departure points.

Besides the utility messaging, the effort also serves as a branding statement for Virgin America, which has taken an approach that’s very different from the carriers that have cut back on frills for economic reasons. The airline has decked out its cabins with leather seats, colorful mood lighting and electronic features — including power outlets at every seat, WiFi and touch screens for entertainment and ordering beverages and snacks — and this “Street View” campaign gives the airline an opportunity to show off its unique value proposition.

To get the word out to new prospective passengers, the company is launching a digital display campaign on the Google Display Network aimed at driving trial and bookings. Using placements on The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Mashable and Wired, the company hopes to drive traffic to its website and raise awareness of Virgin America among business travelers.

Here are some of the creative executions that will appear on those sites:

Seat View Digital 2

Seat View Digital 3

Seat View Digital

The campaign will also include an outdoor effort in the cities Virgin America serves — San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Washington, DC and Chicago. The Out Of Home campaign will involve billboards and interactive bus shelters where people can interact with the Street View on a large panel touchscreen. 

A bus shelter in San Francisco featuring the new Virgin America Google "Seat View" advertising campaign (PRNewsFoto/Virgin America)

A bus shelter in San Francisco featuring the new Virgin America Google “Seat View” advertising campaign (PRNewsFoto/Virgin America)

Meanwhile, the airline has begun promoting the new Street View via its own social media presences using the #SeatView hashtag, beginning with Twitter:

About the author

Pamela Parker
Pamela Parker is Research Director at Third Door Media's Content Studio, where she produces MarTech Intelligence Reports and other in-depth content for digital marketers in conjunction with Search Engine Land and MarTech. Prior to taking on this role at TDM, she served as Content Manager, Senior Editor and Executive Features Editor. Parker is a well-respected authority on digital marketing, having reported and written on the subject since its beginning. She's a former managing editor of ClickZ and has also worked on the business side helping independent publishers monetize their sites at Federated Media Publishing. Parker earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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