Virgin pulls viral web marketing campaign

Virgin Money has pulled out of a viral marketing campaign after internet users proved a little too forthright in their responses.

The company approached offbeat humour web site with a plan to kick off a viral marketing campaign using the web sites weekly image challenge competition. Each week members submit photoshopped photos around a theme, such as 'Very Old Superheroes' or 'New Road Signs'.

Virgin sponsored an image challenge and asked b3ta users to come up with ideas that would illustrate the value of 'saying yes', in line with the company's current advertising campaign. Prizes such as a Sony PlayStation were offered for the winning entry.

But the competition was quickly pulled after hundreds of suggestions were sent in, some bordering on the obscene.

"Yep, they pulled the challenge, yep; they were told before they opened it exactly how it would play out; yep, they asked us to delete it and yep, I think the whole thing is funny," said Rob Manuel, who runs the site, in a message board posting on the site.

Some of the entries included doctored pictures of the two Soham murder victims, estate agents boards with 'Virgin Repossessions' and an image of Branson urinating on Manuel, the site's owner.

'The site is known for its cutting edge creativity and some of the ideas were extremely clever," said a Virgin Money spokesman.