Andrew Mickel’s Big Idea: Orange

The French are making adverts again. The 'Matt Berry as the Volvic Volcano' incident proved this doesn't end well. But this time Orange have brought their friends...

Your friends. Aren’t they great? Don’t you get up to wacky things, like rolling giant rolls of carpet down public walkways, drawing on the walls with crayons, or piling up your furniture to make a giant woolly telephone?

Of course you don’t. You haven’t seen any of your friends outside of Facebook since mid-June 2007. Even before the Zuckerman Takeover, anyone who did the things listed above would make your friends, in order: liable for manslaughter charges for reckless use of carpeting in public areas; made to sit in the corner by their parents when they get home; production assistants on Art Attack.

Still, that’s apparently what Orange think represents friendship today. They’ve got a little kooky of late. Their adverts are full of hazy sunlight and dusty urban landscapes. (Actually, so do T-Mobile, but their ads are too boring to think about.) Giant scrapbooks about texting or downloading music on phones unfold as indie-pretty Storm models simper about puppies and cut-out paper hearts and rainbows and the such. An infantile orchestra of bells, whistles and kazoos bash about in the background to muffle the last gasps of any semblance of being a grown-up. Because primary colours are fun! And can be easily redubbed for the international market!

The ‘let’s work together’ vibe is hardly new in advertising – I, too, would like to buy the world a Coke, and unite my colours of Benetton – but at least people in ads used to work together on something useful. Now it’s all about the waggling of flags and the doodling of crayons.

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The problem is that, in some frustratingly gnawing way, Orange are sort of, vaguely, kind of, in a mild way, on to something. Maybe we could call it a post-capitalist malaise. We’re not really doing anything useful at work any more but we’re chained to our desks for longer than ever. Isn’t it fun to fart about in fields, squirting each other with hosepipes and holding up colourful pinwheels to catch the breeze? Wouldn’t you like a Rocket lolly, some cut-off shorts and a kite to fly in your surprisingly ungritty urban landscape?

Well, yes and no. I like a colourful pinwheel as much as the next boy, but getting the dolphin tariff from Orange, with 75 minutes and 200 texts for only £25, is not going to get me waving one down at Southend-on-Sea. (Also, that’s a crap deal.) Indeed, the advert is only likely to make me add a ‘rotate my pinwheel’ application to my Facebook profile.

In short, someone needs some new ideas in mobile marketing. T-Mobile and Orange are stuck in a dusty rut, and, as far as I can recall, neither of them have ever produced a decent ad (file under: French and German Companies Can’t Do Adverts). Vodafone ads are stunningly forgettable. O2’s wonderful bubble schtick has run its course and needs pensioning off. 3’s ads might be good, but unfortunately the signal’s too bad to see what they’re about.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to pick up my order from Carpet-Right and head down the Elephant and Castle. Those public rights of way aren’t going to brighten themselves up.

Andrew Mickel writes every week at Den of Geek; read his last column here.