TOP PERFORMERS OF 1996: ADVERTISER OF THE YEAR: ORANGE - In 1996 Orange tested the rules on competitive advertising, forced its rivals to follow its innovative lead and took the stock market by storm as it went public

A latecomer to the UK’s rather cluttered mobile phone market, Orange did not just sneak quietly into the arena and hope for the best. No, it backed up a gutsy sales strategy with memorable advertising that, this year, finally forced its rivals to follow suit.

A latecomer to the UK’s rather cluttered mobile phone market,

Orange did not just sneak quietly into the arena and hope for the best.

No, it backed up a gutsy sales strategy with memorable advertising that,

this year, finally forced its rivals to follow suit.



Even more admirable, perhaps, is that despite being a minnow in the

shark pool of British telecommunications, Orange also spent more on

advertising than any other brand in the mobile sector and has

steadfastly stuck to one message and one agency - WCRS - while all

around were changing theirs.



All this would matter very little, of course, if the tactics hadn’t

worked with a vengeance. But Millward Brown figures show that in

awareness terms, Orange’s advertising has blown its competitors out of

the water. Subscriptions doubled from last year, and this March the

company floated in a blaze of publicity with a stock market listing that

was ten times oversubscribed.



In fact, the year has seen a vindication of Orange’s marketing tactics

on several different levels. Months of careful planning came to a head

last autumn when Orange unsheathed the crux of its strategy - value for

money. For the event, WCRS had crafted a series of comparative ads which

took sideswipes at the competition.



It was one of the first major campaigns to test the UK’s new rules on

comparative advertising, enshrined in the 1994 Copyright Act, and was so

successful that the opposition was stung into action, and took Orange to

court. It was a case that was supposed to cost Orange ’a bob or two and

a smack on the bottom’, according to Vodafone’s chief executive, Sir

Gerald Whent. But it was, in fact, Vodafone that had to dig deep, after

its charge of malicious falsehoods was thrown out and the company was

ordered to pay costs.



So a brave move - and a tricky one - passed the severest test, and with

stylish advertising too. Even though Orange’s advertising had moved into

the realms of the specific, it retained its hallmark orange-and-black

colours and never descended into the banal.



The court victory paved the way for Orange to become the consumer’s

champion.



Management quickly capitalised on this in its advertising, and its legal

successes went on to appear all the more impressive after its rival,

Cellnet, fell foul of the very pitfalls Orange had avoided and was

forced to withdraw its comparative advertising campaign after the

Advertising Standards Authority upheld complaints against it.



This was the year too in which Cellnet and Vodafone both ended rounding

up the cost of calls to the nearest minute. Orange bills on a per-second

basis, which works out cheaper for the consumer.



But there was another very strong candidate for advertiser of the year.

A company that for much of its extensive history has been a name that

epitomised advertising blandness.



A client that for years has demanded - and got - commercials with

lingering shots of dashboards, exhaust pipes and wheel hubs, and all to

the sound of uninspired rock soundtracks.



This year, however, Ford changed tack. And to its eternal credit has

retained the same advertising agency - Ogilvy and Mather - to oversee

the change. Together, the pair have broken away from past mantras which

have insisted on driving Ford as a single brand under the umbrella line

’everything we do is driven by you’ to the new policy of aiming to give

each of its main marques a personality all of its own.



This year, Escort acquired the catchy ’what do you do in yours?’

line.



The Maverick surprised punters with a quirky campaign featuring a

pint-sized four wheel-drive car bouncing down a builder’s throat, and

the Mondeo returned with a moody spot backed by two different

soundtracks in which a man comes to an important life decision at the

wheel of his car.



In all, this year’s renaissance, the brainchild of O&M and Ford UK’s

chairman, Ian McAllister, has been truly astonishing, although it’s too

early to say how much metal the work will shift. Unfortunately, 1996 was

also the year in which Ford was caught whiting out the faces of black

people in its ads, and then leaving its agency to carry the can, a

factor that blotted its copybook as far as Campaign was concerned.



Also in the running this year was Britvic, which has continued to

support innovative advertising for its Tango brand through Howell Henry

Chaldecott Lury. This year two new flavours were launched, Blackcurrant

and Lemon Tango. Blackcurrant Tango, in particular, saw some much-loved

but controversial advertising featuring Ray Gardener, the pugilistic and

xenophobic brand manager for Blackcurrant Tango, whose excited

exhortations to the French student, Sebastien, to come on out and fight

started tongues wagging but could never be called bland.



Britvic has been less successful, in advertising its other brands.

However brave the work for Robinsons was this year, consumers found it

confusing and the commercials were baffling.



In these, the same script was used with several different meanings.

Similarly, Britvic’s handling of the sports drink, Red Card, has been

low profile to date.



Overall, though, the crown has to go to Orange. Which other company has

come from behind and, by the sheer force of its marketing arguments and

advertising message, forced its rivals to spend more, vanquished their

attempts to silence it in court and, finally, shamed them in to adopting

its fairer pricing policies? As the advertising says, the future’s

bright, the future’s ...



Recent winners: Daewoo (1995); Tesco (1994); Woolworths (1993); Unilever

(1992).



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