OPINION: Mills on ... WCRS's Orange finale

As swansongs go, WCRS's last campaign for Orange (Campaign, last week) is pretty low-key. There's none of the grand sweeping statements or awesome widescreen feel that we've come to expect from previous Orange ads. Indeed, the production budget for this campaign must have been tiny, even if the pounds 7 million media budget will ensure ubiquity.

As swansongs go, WCRS's last campaign for Orange (Campaign, last week) is pretty low-key. There's none of the grand sweeping statements or awesome widescreen feel that we've come to expect from previous Orange ads. Indeed, the production budget for this campaign must have been tiny, even if the pounds 7 million media budget will ensure ubiquity.

I can't help feeling a touch sorry about this. If the last act of an opera or a film is always a stunning crescendo, so, you feel, should be the campaign that marks the end of one of the definitive agency-client relationships of recent years. When you go, you want to go out in style. As a strictly neutral observer, I'd love WCRS to have been able to do the same. Then they could say to Orange: 'See what you're missing.' And they'd lay down a challenge to Lowe Lintas: 'Go on then, see if you can do better than that.'

Alas, it is not to be. What we have though is still, in many ways, characteristically Orange. In the 30-second animated spot, we see a harassed nurse working at night in a maternity ward. Then we see a group of students/schoolchildren burst out of lessons at the end of the day. Finally, we close on a vampire taking his bat out for a stroll. Throughout, the ad is in the brand's orange and black colours. The point? Well, it's a simple one: to illustrate that Orange's pre-pay service comes with a variety of off-peak call times.

In this 24/7 work culture, it's obvious that one person's off-peak is another's busy time and that to shoehorn everyone into the same off-peak smacks of old-fashioned BT-type corporate arrogance. Hence the campaign's tagline: 'No eek in off peak.'

As I said, this is a long way from some of the epic films - think bicycling Asians, think Ridley Scott, think orangutans - that made Orange famous.

But in other respects, it's true to Orange and its ability to move the game on and to change the rules of customer service. The idea of multiple off-peak times to suit the different life and work styles of today's population is so obvious you wonder why no-one thought of it before. But then, devising a mobile phone service that suits the customer rather than the supplier has always been the point of difference between Orange and its competitors. This is the essence of the brand, and it is in the consistent and engaging positioning of these qualities that WCRS's work has been so successful.

In fact, I'd go further than that. Pre-WCRS and Orange, if you can remember back to the dark days of the early 90s, mobile phone advertising was awful. Vodafone was anonymous. Cellnet's was drab featuring, as I recall, middle-aged women whose cars had broken down. One2One's Beatrice Dalle and Robert Lindsay series was so bad it almost acquired Ferrero Rocher-like status. Then along came Orange and WCRS to shake the sector to its core and, in the process, raise the standard for everyone. Most of them have responded. Thank God for that. As an advertising sector, telephony is now one of the biggest in the UK. If it's going to spend that much money, you'd hope the ads are going to be good.

Orange and WCRS did more than that, however. They were the first mobile phone advertiser to grasp that any product or service advantage could quickly be copied by rivals. The secret was to sell functionality and service in one package and wrap it up in a style that could only be Orange's.

By those standards, this latest campaign, while by no means a classic, has the same DNA. Over to you Lowes.



Would I buy this product? Yes - especially for the kids

Any chance of an award then? No, but if there's any justice, WCRS will pick up something big at November's IPA Effectiveness Awards.

What about the competition? My guess is that they'll be playing catch-up again with Orange.