In a reprise of characters from Virgin's 2004 commercials, a mock telethon with a 1970's style commentator says, "Welcome to the Virgin Mobile Christmahanukwanzakah help line. Let's listen in."
An old man with a place card reading "Buddhist Cowboy" sits silently. The commentator continues, "Working hard for you, Christmahanukwanzakah style!"
A Hindu man dressed as Santa Claus is shown talking on the phone in broken English, "Yes! He will love shorty phone! No contract, make him tingle!"
Back to the commentator, "Yep, help lines helping people, helping, helping..."
Next, the camera cuts back to an operator at the mock-telethon, whose place card reads "Gay Elf." He flips his wrists in excitement as he answers the phone, exclaiming in a feminine, high-pitched squeal, "Oooh!"
The commentator concludes, "Please call us. Virgin Mobile loves you."
While some may applaud the inclusion of a specifically labelled "gay elf," the only humor is the elf's classically feminine stereotype. The commercial is almost entirely dedicated to stereotypes and mocking multiculturalism. Some may argue that all groups are equally offended, but the spot merely perpetuates them without offering many new twists.
It turns out that the gay elf was the most popular character people chose to speak to when calling in. According to Virgin Mobile, of nearly 1 million calls between mid-November 2005 and early January 2006, 50% of all callers selected the elf, ahead of the Jew/Paula Abdul by double, and even more than the Hindu Santa, and Kwanzaa Guy, in that order.
Intriguingly, when selecting the elf, callers were also asked, "If you ride on my bus, press one," and "If you're a straight shooter, press two." Then callers could leave a message if they wanted, and 30,000 did.
"We got daily totals for the characters," explains Bob Stohrer, vice president of brand and communications for Virgin Mobile. "It's amazing how consistent the calling patterns were" and how much people liked the gay elf. "Almost all of them were really, really positive."