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Virgin Mobile Axes Stripping Campaign

So, the MVNO Virgin Mobile wanted a viral way to promote its phones while also donating clothing to nonprofits that clothe homeless teens. Sounds like a noble goal, and nothing could go wrong, right? Well, it can get sticky if you involve stripping.
So, the MVNO Virgin Mobile wanted a viral way to promote its phones while also donating clothing to nonprofits that clothe homeless teens. Sounds like a noble goal, and nothing could go wrong, right? Well, it can get sticky if you involve stripping.A couple of weeks ago, the company launched a "Strip2Clothe" marketing blitz that encouraged users to send in striptease videos. With a slogan of "Someone out there needs clothes more than you," the company agreed to donate clothing for each video submitted. For every five views that the videos got, the prepaid mobile phone company would donate more clothing.

Of course, once word of this campaign got around, there were some upset people. According to The Journal, Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis called the campaign "distasteful, inappropriate, and exploitative." One can almost picture Helen Lovejoy shouting, "Won't someone please think of the children!"

The campaign has been changed into Blank2Clothe. Users can fill that blank however they want -- the YouTube channel shows juggling, walking, and dancing.

It was undoubtedly a risqué and edgy promotion, but should Virgin Mobile have stopped it? The terms of service clearly state that submissions have to come from users 18 and older, and the company filtered the videos to make sure it didn't fall into Skinemax territory. And Virgin Mobile users -- mainly teens, or young adults with credit issues -- are probably adept at finding salacious material online anyway.

Of course, the cynic has to think the company knew this kind of blowback would happen, and the resulting press coverage would elevate Blank2Clothe. But, if the goal is to get some clothes for homeless teens, wouldn't the original campaign generate more traffic. The "controversial" videos led to 15,000 pieces of clothing donated to charities in a week.

Naturally, the ends don't justify the means in every scenario -- I'd disapprove of a "StealFromGrandma2Clothe" campaign -- but the original promotion was fine marketing, and it should have been continued.

What do you think -- did this project cross a line?

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