VIRGIN Atlantic Airways promised ''a product war, not a price war'' in launching its overt media campaign last week with a series of radio spots, and high-quality inserts in three Chinese-language and three English-language publications. Building on the ''Lady In Red'' teaser campaign which ran the week before, and the earlier reservations office announcement, the new advertisements deliberately used different tones - appropriate to each medium. Phil Hawkes, the ad campaign director working in close collaboration with Thompson and Partners agency, said the intention in both cases was to highlight Virgin Atlantic's product quality, but in the humorous and offbeat manner that the entire Virgin Group had made its hallmark. ''The company has repeatedly been asked if it intends to begin a price war with its competitors. It does not. There will be no price war, but there will be a product war,'' said Mr Hawkes. Virgin claims product superiority in all three classes and the campaign will develop by detailing specifically the standards of both inflight comfort and services and ground-based facilities. The radio spots go further down the humorous route than those in print. Using references to its corporate colours, Virgin is making cheeky, but good-natured, digs at its two main rivals on the direct Hong Kong-London route, Cathay Pacific and British Airways. These include a gentle jibe about turning other airlines ''green with envy'', while another line in the radio script refers to Virgin leaving other airlines ''feeling blue''. The media blitz that greeted Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson when he visited Hong Kong late last year proved beyond any doubt that there was little or no need for further development of the company's image profile. The Virgin Group has always been public relations-driven, with much favourable publicity deriving from the ebullient personal activities of its charismatic chairman. ''By contrast, the central requirements with the Virgin Atlantic ad campaign are to stress its seriousness as a business enterprise, and emphasise how the airline is taking on new characteristics as it grows,'' said Mr Hawkes.