OPINION: Beale On... Orange

Why is it that every new advance in technology is met with a panting sex industry itching to exploit the commercial potential? Now the internet's conquered, you probably won't be surprised to hear that mobile phones are the latest weapon in the porn armoury.

Now before you go wandering off into a little fantasy about vibrating handsets (which, to be frank, you should have got over by now), let me explain with a neat example.

In South Korea a woman was recently had up for taking pictures of her fellow nude bathers in a local sauna and selling them to a suitably fruity website. Sneaky thing was, she took the pics on her mobile phone. It's quite a popular little scam apparently. There's probably a top-shelf niche here waiting to be filled by Richard Desmond (Vodafone Vixens?).

Anyway, the South Korean parliament has now ordered all mobile manufacturers to build in a beep so you know when someone's snapping your vitals.

But furtive photo-ing is a worrying thought, particularly with party season upon us and the mobile phone operators determined to make this a picture messaging Christmas. After all, who wants their egg-nogged snogs captured in blurry orange fuzziness on a colleague's Nokia?

Let's be honest. Have you ever seen a mobile phone picture that wasn't deeply embarrassing (friends and colleagues in compromising positions) or painfully cute (children, the odd dog and cat)? Anyway, full marks to Mother for trying to raise the tone a bit with its new campaign to promote Orange's Photo Messaging. Aside from a major quibble about the dramatic change in style and strategy from the Orange Training Academy ad (which became as irritating as a little yappy dog that won't leave your trouser leg alone), this new campaign is a real treat.

I happen to know, because I've read the press release, that the "gendarme" photo messaging ad is part of a campaign that will run internationally.

Sitting on my sofa, though, I'd never have guessed; "gendarme" has style and simple class that will undoubtedly travel well, but it also has a warmth and a gentle humour that embarrassingly few international ads manage.

The ad features perhaps the world's soppiest policeman - Officer Du Pont - who believes he's an artist because he sees beauty all around. So, of course, he cannot wait to share the discoveries of his sensitivities with his colleagues using his Orange photo messaging. Daisies, loved-up traffic cones, window cleaners in Plough constellation: it's all terribly whimsical, a bit suggary and recalls all those lovely gentle French movies that are successful enough to earn English subtitles. And Officer Du Pont has one of those beautifully lived-in, rubbery faces that the continentals do so well.

For all its European charm, though, there's something Americana about this ad, and it's not just the uber-American (oh so Mother) voiceover.

If it was, say, Officer Brady and he was wearing a different sort of hat, I'd believe you if you said it was set in New York. I can't quite put my finger on how, but this ad is the bastard off-spring of two continents but loses nothing for that. In fact, perhaps that's why this one will surely leap borders effortlessly.

I have two key problems with "gendarme", though. The first is that the imagery is too absorbing, a little too distracting, so that the key message doesn't really cut through. But I also wonder whether the themes of the ad will really resonate with our own experiences of picture messaging. It's just a step too removed from the mooning and kiddy-grinning of typical photo messaging to strike a real chord. While Officer Du Pont is sending pretty Daisy pics, the rest of us are photographing puerilities. Or privates.

Dead cert for a Pencil? Perhaps in the best country-border, pole-vaulting category.

File under... D for dreamy.

What would the chairman's wife say? "I love a sensitive soul, particularly if he's French."


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