Is it just me or has Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam sold a Coke
commercial to Vodafone's global brand director, David Haines, by
"Right, David, what's your problem?"
"Where do I start? We're a founder member of the mobile phone club but
we're better known for our sports sponsorship than our advertising.
We're the largest mobile phone operator, but we're up against a younger,
trendier company with a history of smart advertising. We've been buying
stakes in companies all over the world, but we've a name that means
precious little in English, let alone a foreign language. We need a big
ad to pull everything together under a common theme ..."
Cue Vodafone's new 60-second commercial, part of a £250 million
global campaign, the largest in its 18-year history. It shows a series
of cameos held together by a catchy song by the Dandy Warhols. All the
cameos are based on the opening of conversations in response to the
question: "How are you?" Young people doing music festival type stuff
(we're groovy), a man at the zoo with his kid (I'm in a meeting), three
girls in a cab on a night out (we're gorgeous), a sea rescue (we're
safe), a Manchester United football match (we're winning) - and so on.
The response appears in type at the end of each cameo, together with the
speechmark of Vodafone's logo.
I think I may have given the impression that this is an inoffensive but
wholly unremarkable ad lacking any of the potency or vision of Orange,
whose work, through WCRS, set the standard in the telecommunications
sector. I think I may be right.
But consider two things: this time last year Vodafone produced 12
different ads for 12 different markets. It didn't so much have an image
problem -problem was, it didn't even have an image to have a problem
with. Here is a valiant attempt to create an image by owning a phrase
that opens almost every phone conversation we have. Trouble is, to own
something in advertising you must invent it or juxtapose it in a clever
way - this is an association.
A big question is how will it work against Orange and how will WCRS -
which won the Vodafone UK account soon after losing Orange to Lowe
Lintas but subsequently lost out to W&K in the global pitch - use its
expertise to leverage more value in the retail environment?
PS: As the recipient of briefings from all sides in the battle for this
account, it has been interesting to observe the end result of the
involvement of Tempus Partners. Not a lot of people know that David
Wheldon (ex of Coke, like Haines) was charged with masterminding all of
Vodafone's recent agency appointments. A coup, for any media agency
off-shoot. But was it worth the journey off-piste? Without question,
this is the best ad in the history of Vodafone. But after "Nobody goes
further to keep you in touch", X-files parodies and "You are here",
that's not saying very much.