Virgin has been forced into an embarrassing U-turn after a new viral advertising campaign backfired spectacularly.
The company had asked readers of b3ta.com, an online community known for bad taste jokes, to create a new advert for the Virgin Money brand. Hundreds of entries were submitted, but last week the company pulled the competition from the Internet after concerns over some of the submissions.
Among the entries were doctored images of Virgin's founder, Richard Branson, in compromising situations. A spokesman for Virgin Money said the company had become concerned that some of the images were "a little bit illegal", and had decided to shut down the competition to prevent further transgressions.
But members of the site, which has a reputation for anarchic humour, are unrepentant. Rob Manuel, one of the site's founders, refused to comment when contacted. However, he told the site's subscribers that Virgin was warned to expect the worst. "I think the whole thing is funny," he wrote.
B3ta has more than 100,000 registered members and has been the starting point for a series of successful artists and animators. Last week the site launched a book called "The Bumper B3ta Book of Sick Jokes", which is on Amazon's bestseller list.
The site is blocked by many search engines because of the prevalence of swearing, but it does ask users to flag up images which may not be appropriate for all viewers. "We don't want to censor people, or make a moral judgment about what they should be looking at," say the website's rules. "We would simply ask that any pictures which could be mistaken for porn are linked with an appropriate warning."
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