EDITORIAL: An idea that travels is telecom nirvana

The news that Orange is holding a pitch to develop a pan-European ad campaign will come as no surprise (Campaign, 15 August).

The company has a new chief executive, Solomon Trujillo, who needs to clarify its strategy in the face of criticism from investors that its policy-making is dominated by the needs of its debt-ridden parent, France Telecom.

Although Orange has traditionally run campaigns on a market-by-market basis, it needs to do something bold to react to Vodafone's European lead.

Mother's polarising "learn" campaign and its latest "fair" (for which read "cheap") campaign are no match for Vodafone's might - or its budget.

Indeed, the notion of any of the phone operators operating on a "fair" platform looks over-ambitious. The big four mobile networks were accused earlier this year of ripping off callers after a damning enquiry by the Competition Commission demanded immediate cuts in the cost of making calls to mobiles. Now consumers are being asked to see one of the main players as "fair". Who would blame consumers for feeling cynical?

As the biggest of the international players, Vodafone has gained the rewards from its single-minded approach to its advertising. Mobile telephony is one of the few product categories that lends itself not only to some form of international advertising, but also to a uniform global campaign.

"How are you?" is Wieden & Kennedy's solution. Coke-like in advertising terms, it is not exciting in terms of raising the creative bar: but it seems to be working.

Orange's confusion, its adherence to quirky local advertising for local markets, its lack of a consistent global strategy uniting its network of national operators, all these weaknesses must be delighting Vodafone.

For all the models used to deliver it, international advertising campaigns are about one simple truth: finding advertising ideas, not necessarily executions, that cross borders.

People have been doing this for years in other industries such as film, fashion, music and art. It is a damaging truth that marketing and advertising, where internecine warfare rages between markets and disciplines, find it so hard.

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