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Virgin Voyages Sets a Course for Global Growth With Hearts & Science

October 10, 2023 | By Olivia Morley

GroupM’s EssenceMediacom won the review, but a source told Adweek ‘unforeseen operational concerns’ hindered the transition.

In late March this year, Richard Branson’s adults-only cruise line Virgin Voyages wrapped up a short review of its global media business and selected GroupM’s EssenceMediacom to manage the account.

But the cruise line reversed course before transitioning its business. It opted to stick with one of its incumbent agency networks, Omnicom Media Group (OMG). Now, the group’s media agency Hearts & Science services the business.

‘Unforeseen operational concerns’ 

The process kicked off in February.

Virgin Voyages intended to slim down its agency roster and streamline its marketing operations across the globe, Isis Ruiz, the brand’s chief growth officer, told Adweek.

Despite it winning the review, EssenceMediacom never placed media for the brand. After just five or six weeks of engagement operational issues fizzled the partnership, according to Ruiz. Virgin Voyages and EssenceMediacom both declined to comment on what those issues were.

The brand on-boarded Hearts & Science between April and June, formalizing the AOR relationship by July 1.

A global consolidation

Hearts & Science will manage traditional and digital media strategy, planning and buying for the brand across all markets, namely, the U.S., U.K. and Australia. The agency created a bespoke unit, called Team Voyage, to service the brand. The Hearts & Science-led unit also taps into talent and tools from Omnicom Media Group, something that attracted the brand.

Before Hearts & Science took on the account, it managed the brand’s media in the U.K. Virgin Voyages also worked in some markets with OMG’s performance agency, Resolution Media. The now-consolidated global media business is worth $65 million, according to COMvergence data.

In an initial statement shared with Adweek, Virgin Voyages described Hearts & Science’s deep understanding of its brand and audiences. Brand leaders eager for consolidation found OMG’s Omni technology platform, globally-consistent planning process and streamlined operations to be helpful for getting global teams on the same page.

“As their media partner, Team Voyage at Hearts & Science will continue to build upon the incredible Virgin brand through a next-in-class media solution that achieves a very clear goal—to fill every cabin on every Virgin Voyage.” Christopher Stanger, CEO of Hearts & Science, said in a statement.