There are a few phrases commonly used in this business which
invariably make me suspicious. One of them is 'This is just a holding
ad' which, translated, means: 'We haven't figured out what we want to do
yet, but the client insists we get something out. So here it is'.
The last time I heard this phrase used was to describe the current
Orange ad. I'm sure you know the one. Men and women - distinguished,
like some secret sect, by a little orange square in the palms of their
hands - saying various things such as: 'What's the latest score?', 'I
know where the gigs are' and, most excruciatingly of all, 'I make my own
world and take it with me ... (deeply meaningful pause) ... at all
Although I first saw the ad about a month ago, you will struggle to find
any mention of it in Campaign. 'Why haven't we written about it?' I
asked the newsdesk. This is an ad that represents Lowe Lintas first work
on perhaps the most significant account move of last year. Cue shuffling
of feet by a Campaign reporter. 'They said it was a holding ad. They
said could we leave this one and wait for the next one which would be
their first real work.' How obliging we can be at times.
I, on the other hand, feel less obliging, not least because it seems so
topical following the recent flotation of Orange.
After all, this past month has seen a profusion of Orange ads (by Dewe
Rogerson, incidentally) designed to tell investors what a wonderful buy
Orange shares would be. With a certain irony, the flotation campaign
climaxed two weeks ago on the day that Orange's owner, France Telecom,
decided it had to cut the price because of a sudden downturn in investor
sentiment towards the sector. Oops, but then I guess there's not much
any advertising can do when the tide is sweeping against you. 'All the
investors are saying they like the brand,' the Financial Times quoted
France Telecom's finance director as saying, 'but they want to pay a
Talking of brands, however, you can't help wondering the extent to which
investors are cognisant of the fact that none of the original architects
of the Orange brand - Robin Wight of WCRS, Doug Hamilton of Wolff Olins,
Hans Snook and the marketing team at Orange - are still present. Was
this, you might ask mischievously, a factor in their reluctance to pay a
full price for Orange's shares? Perhaps. Although smaller than Vodafone,
the benchmark by which investors are measuring it, Orange was always a
But are those strengths being dissipated? Judging by the quality of the
flotation ads they commissioned, I wouldn't have a lot of confidence in
the judgment of the current marketing team at Orange. So David Bailey
shot the flotation TV commercial, but even legends have been known to
take the money and run sometimes.
You could argue too that the Lowe ad also raises questions about the
quality of the marketing team's judgment. If I were to ask you what the
ad is actually for, you might think that was a silly question. You might
think it's an ad for a phone service, but it's not.It is, in fact, for a
text messaging service. Register at Orange.com, load in your preferences
(ie friends' birthdays, the weather and so on) and Orange will send
messages to your phone. At least that's what I think they say they'll
Of course, it's early days in the relationship with Lowe, and this ad
may genuinely represent a change in Orange's marketing strategy as
opposed to a wrong step. Let's hope so, or we may have to lend some
credence to stories that Lowe creatives are looking forward to working
on a Griff Rhys-Jones brief.
Dead cert for a Pencil? Wouldn't even win an internal award.
Will it work? People will register. They always do.
What would the chairman's wife say? There's no excuse for forgetting our