PERSPECTIVE: Vodafone's latest ad lacks potency of the Orange campaigns

Is it just me or has Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam sold a Coke

commercial to Vodafone's global brand director, David Haines, by


"Right, David, what's your problem?"

"Where do I start? We're a founder member of the mobile phone club but

we're better known for our sports sponsorship than our advertising.

We're the largest mobile phone operator, but we're up against a younger,

trendier company with a history of smart advertising. We've been buying

stakes in companies all over the world, but we've a name that means

precious little in English, let alone a foreign language. We need a big

ad to pull everything together under a common theme ..."

Cue Vodafone's new 60-second commercial, part of a £250 million

global campaign, the largest in its 18-year history. It shows a series

of cameos held together by a catchy song by the Dandy Warhols. All the

cameos are based on the opening of conversations in response to the

question: "How are you?" Young people doing music festival type stuff

(we're groovy), a man at the zoo with his kid (I'm in a meeting), three

girls in a cab on a night out (we're gorgeous), a sea rescue (we're

safe), a Manchester United football match (we're winning) - and so on.

The response appears in type at the end of each cameo, together with the

speechmark of Vodafone's logo.

I think I may have given the impression that this is an inoffensive but

wholly unremarkable ad lacking any of the potency or vision of Orange,

whose work, through WCRS, set the standard in the telecommunications

sector. I think I may be right.

But consider two things: this time last year Vodafone produced 12

different ads for 12 different markets. It didn't so much have an image

problem -problem was, it didn't even have an image to have a problem

with. Here is a valiant attempt to create an image by owning a phrase

that opens almost every phone conversation we have. Trouble is, to own

something in advertising you must invent it or juxtapose it in a clever

way - this is an association.

A big question is how will it work against Orange and how will WCRS -

which won the Vodafone UK account soon after losing Orange to Lowe

Lintas but subsequently lost out to W&K in the global pitch - use its

expertise to leverage more value in the retail environment?

PS: As the recipient of briefings from all sides in the battle for this

account, it has been interesting to observe the end result of the

involvement of Tempus Partners. Not a lot of people know that David

Wheldon (ex of Coke, like Haines) was charged with masterminding all of

Vodafone's recent agency appointments. A coup, for any media agency

off-shoot. But was it worth the journey off-piste? Without question,

this is the best ad in the history of Vodafone. But after "Nobody goes

further to keep you in touch", X-files parodies and "You are here",

that's not saying very much.