Virgin Mobile schools students

The phone company is offering to pay rent for the student house with the best social media skills.

Virgin Mobile is celebrating back-to-school by offering to pay a year’s rent for the college or university house with the best social media campaign.

The company is using the ‘On the House’ contest to boost buzz about the brand in the key back-to-school retail season.

For the competition, student houses will create online profiles and complete challenges. Each successfully completed challenge helps the house unlock prizes and could win them the grand prize of a rent-free school year.

Virgin is trying to maximize the campaign’s viral potential by having participants generate votes for their house by recruiting their friends, Erica Faltous, manager, PR and media relations, Virgin Mobile says, noting that the company hopes to make the contest an annual back-to-school event.

‘When you’re going back to school, you’re looking at what phone you have and what you want to have,’ says Faltous. ‘We wanted to go where the students are, which is online.’

The campaign is targeted at students returning to campuses across the country. The only advertising for the contest has been through ads on Facebook and, a scholarships and grants site for post-secondary students.

Toronto-based Teehan+Lax is Virgin Mobile’s web agency and worked on the creative and web development for this campaign. Virgin handled the buy internally.

In the first week, 100 houses have created profiles, posting photos and videos and choosing their desired prizes from Samsung, the campaign’s prize partner.