OPINION: Cowen on ... Orange

In advertising, as in football, you frequently get what you pay

for. I'm sure that Lowe Lintas could have signed up the prolific Michael

Owen, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink or Thierry Henry to star as the ecstatic

goalscorer in the current Orange ad - but that would probably have

tripled the cost of the spot overnight.



Instead it opted for the less well known, presumably less expensive,

Jason Euell. "What the hell," the logic most likely went. "He's a

striker. He's bound to score sooner or later."



That is where it was wrong. Euell failed to find the net during the

first five games of the season and has since disappeared from his side's

starting 11. If you're wondering which side that is, then you're not

alone. It's been nagging me every time I've seen the ad - and, thanks to

Orange's adept media planning, that's been fairly often. Wimbledon?

Watford? Bolton?



Turns out Mr Euell is on Charlton's books - and unless someone at Lowe

is a particularly rabid Addicks fan, I can't work out for the life of me

why he's been added to Orange's.



If you ask me, the most appropriate player for this ad would have been

David Ginola. To be precise, the Ginola of 1998 who was at the height of

his footballing powers while playing for Tottenham Hotspur. This was the

Ginola who would soon forget how to pass to his teammates and would

instead concentrate on ludicrous backheels and overhead kicks, who would

fall from grace by choosing style over substance.



If you ask me, that's what Orange is in danger of doing here.



The crucial selling point of an instant text messaging service should be

that it's instant. The football fans I know who sign up to have scores

flashed to their mobile are very demanding about it. They want to know

what's happening now, this second, as soon as the ball goes in. They

certainly don't want to wait for what seems an eternity while their

centre forward jogs around looking for them - especially as the

opposition will probably be 2-1 up by the time Euell makes it back to

the pitch.



Had this ad been ten seconds long - and spent less time dwelling on

black and white shots of terrace houses - it could have captured the

excitement offered by Orange's technology a lot more effectively. The

photography seems perfectly in keeping with great Orange work of old -

but this time it's been allowed to get in the way of the one important

point.



Perhaps it'll get away with it. After all, Orange, like Ginola in 98, is

at the top of its game. Last month it was confirmed as the UK's

number-one mobile phone operator, after rival Vodafone admitted that 16

per cent of its registered subscribers were, in fact, inactive.



Even more impressively, it's bucked the mobile market's prevailing trend

by delivering remarkably upbeat half-year results. Its customer base has

grown by an impressive 65 per cent over the first half of the year.

Surely it can afford one off day on the advertising front?



Especially as Orange's competitors seem no more inclined to talk to

customers about concrete practical benefits than it does. At least the

Euell ad tries to balance engaging consumers with passing on relevant

information. One2One's last campaign was still harping on about

tear-jerking, personal conversations that change your life. Vodafone's

pan-European pop video managed to say even less.



Yet, for all the struggles of its rivals, I feel that Orange is missing

an important trick here. Text messaging services aren't just another

mobile gimmick - they represent the best means currently available for

operators to drive revenue per customer. In the current saturated mobile

market, this is the only way Orange can continue to grow. If it's going

to do so, it can't risk fluffing chances such as this.