OPINION: Mills on ... Orange

For me, it was the original singing detective, Telly Savalas, who put it best in his groundbreaking 1975 hit If. "If a pidcher paints a thousand woids, then why can't I paint you baby?" he warbled in his finest Brooklynese. Poetry, pure poetry.

was still alive today, he wouldn't have to worry about any of this painting stuff. He could just use his Orange mobile phone for the picture business.

Now it may seem odd to write about the latest Orange ad given Lowe has just lost, sorry, resigned the business. Since I wrote about the first Lowe ad for Orange - the one in which people held up their palms to camera - in this column 18 months ago, there's a certain symmetry in writing about the last one. I didn't go much for Lowe's debut work and when Orange started re-running it a few weeks ago it was obvious something was wrong.

Truth is, leaving aside relationship and personnel issues, Lowe never cracked Orange creatively.

My guess is that it had much to do with the tension between the emotionally driven style of advertising that Lowe inherited from WCRS, and which drove Orange through its launch, and the need, as Lowe saw it, to move Orange on to a more rational, product-led approach appropriate in a maturing market.

Unfortunately for Lowe, the Orange marketing department - perhaps in thrall to those heady WCRS days - didn't seem to want to move that way, resulting in ads that neither had a strong emotional core, nor sold product particularly hard.

The only decent ad it did, the one with the Arctic scientist and his wife in her flannelette dressing gown (who would have guessed a peck on the cheek could be so sexy?), was undeniably stunning. Indeed, it's probably the best ad ever for texting. Trouble was, it was a generic ad, for an old product at that.

If the only fault that could be laid at the door of this latest ad was that it is a generic, things wouldn't be too bad. Superficially, it's quite Orange: beautifully crafted, beautifully shot, very simple. A series of vignettes proceed at a stately, elegant pace. Each one shows an individual engaged in a mundane activity. But then their natural surroundings - leaves, sand, mountains (very Mount Rushmore, that) - reveal the face of a friend, colleague or lover. All very contemplative.

But Heaven help me, it's so low key and boring and slow.

The colours are muted and autumnal, and even the music is sombre. Where's the excitement? Where's the fun? Where's the sense that life is for living?

Where's the grasp that photo messaging is a playful product - something the Steffi/Andre ads from T-Mobile at least demonstrate.

I appreciate that photo messaging is unlikely to be one of the much-vaunted 3G products that will change mobile telephony (more 2.5G as I understand it) and rescue the fortunes of all those fools who regret paying billions for licences. But as an advertising property, there's a lot to get your teeth into. The user possibilities are endless - births, sex, weddings, parties, holidays, going out, moving into a new house, those hilarious arse-on-the-office photocopier piccies, buying clothes or a car.

It would be an exaggeration to say the Lowe ad depressed me, but it didn't inspire me. And surely selling a new product which isn't that cheap - the phones cost £200 to £250 and obviously your mate/mum has got to have one too - demands you excite consumers and open their minds to the possibilities.

The latest Lowe ad fails to achieve any of this, and given the way its relationship with Orange had apparently descended into attrition, I can't say I'm surprised. Painful as it may be, I suspect the parting will be to the benefit of both.

Dead cert for a Pencil? Put a red one through Lowe's name.

File under ... R for redundant.

What would the chairman's wife say? "Tim Henman's baby's due soon. Sign

them up."

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