Orange S. A.

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Orange S. A.

50 George St.
London, W1U 7DZ
United Kingdom
Telephone: 44 207 9841600
Web site:



In 1994 a new British mobile-phone operator, Orange S.A., debuted in the wake of Britain's more established operators, such as Vodafone Group and BT Cellnet. Orange grew quickly by offering the United Kingdom's first mobile-phone service that billed according to the seconds of talk time instead of rounding up to the next minute. Nine years after Orange's debut, telecommunications analysts predicted that the maturing U.K. mobile-phone industry was reaching a saturation point. Realizing that the population of new subscribers was dwindling, in 2003 Orange released its "Goldspot" cinema campaign to draw customers away from the competition.

"Goldspot" was created by the ad agency Mother Ltd., which had won Orange's estimated $75 million account in 2002. The campaign claimed its title from the nature of its placement: the commercials appeared during the 60 seconds after movie trailers but before the start of the main feature. This advertising slot was commonly referred to as the "goldspot" in the United Kingdom. Nearly every campaign spot featured a real-life Hollywood figure pitching his or her film idea to actors playing Orange executives. In one spot featuring the director Spike Lee, the director asked Orange to finance a movie about the baseball legend Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play Major League Baseball. After listening to Lee's heartfelt pitch, the executives audaciously suggested that Robinson's story be altered to advertise Orange's services. One executive suggested that in the movie Robinson should play instead for the San Francisco Giants, whose team colors were orange, unlike the colors from Robinson's actual team, the Brooklyn Dodgers. Similar suggestions prompted Spike Lee to leave the meeting prematurely. "Goldspot" commercials ended with the text "Don't let a mobile phone ruin your movie. Please switch it off." The campaign continued into 2004.

"Goldspot" helped Orange retain its position as one of the largest mobile-phone providers within Europe. The ad-industry publication Campaign named three "Goldspot" commercials as the best Cinema Ads of 2004. The campaign also collected a Gold Lion for Commercial Public Services at the 2004 Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.


Orange was founded in 1994 by the Hong Kong company Hutchison Whampoa Limited, through its Hutchison Telecommunications subsidiary. It was the fourth mobile-service provider to appear in the United Kingdom and was considered an underdog by telecommunications analysts. By not imposing fees that were unnecessarily enforced by the larger providers, Orange outgrew most of its competition. In 1994 Orange's network only covered 50 percent of the United Kingdom. Two years later it covered 90 percent of the United Kingdom and claimed 25 percent of the nation's digital-mobile-phone subscribers.

The London ad agency WCRS Group helped launch Orange in 1994 with one-word posters featuring the words "laugh," "cry," or "listen" printed in orange letters on a black background. The agency also released an estimated $1.6 million television spot titled "Better Place," directed by Ridley Scott, whose film-directing credits included the Blade Runner (1982) and Gladiator (2000). Other advertisements featured the tagline "pay for what you say" to tout Orange as the first British mobile-phone company to charge customers by the second instead of by the minute. After claiming that its ad work had increased Orange's market value by an estimated $480 million, WCRS was awarded an IPA Effectiveness Award. WCRS's later work for Orange included an approximately $20 million campaign that broke in mid-2000. One spot, titled "Hold Up," featured a man sitting inside a bar and listening to the sound of a siren outside. The outside police chase then materialized into small miniature cars racing along the bar's countertop. A voice-over explained that Orange subscribers could use their phones to receive current news regardless of their location.

After partnering with the mobile-service provider through strong subscriber growth and a series of award-winning Orange campaigns, WCRS executives were shocked when Orange awarded its advertising account to the ad agency Lowe & Partners in 2000. According to Campaign contributor John Tylee, after the Orange brand was acquired by France Telecom SA in 2000, Orange needed an agency with a larger scope. Lowe's relationship with Orange was short-lived. After a string of high-level resignations within Lowe and a release of what Orange executives considered to be weak advertisement, Orange's new marketing director, Jeremy Dale, awarded Mother Ltd. the advertising account in 2002. The agency began formulating a humorous campaign to lure customers away from the competition.


"Goldspot" targeted the competitions' customers. Research conducted by Orange before the campaign revealed that two-thirds of British mobile-phone subscribers felt confused and apathetic about their service contracts and never reviewed their mobile-phone plans. The cinema-themed spots also aimed to encourage existing Orange customers to use their text and voice features more often. The campaign released a minimal amount of information about Orange's services and focused more on Orange's brand image than its features.

Advertisers historically regarded cinema spots as the best medium for targeting 15- to 34-year-olds, but the medium had expanded its scope during the 10 years preceding the launch of "Goldspot." According to Campaign, the surge of period films, comedy dramas, and remakes of Hollywood classics were attracting older and more mature audiences to movie theaters. In 2004 Campaign reported that 71 percent of the U.K. population over the age of 45 went to the cinema, which was 300 percent greater than the same age group's attendance in 1994.

"Goldspot" targeted U.K. movie audiences with cinema-themed humor. Not only were the Orange executives featured in the spots made out to be buffoons, but the actors chosen for the spots were also parodied for their previous movie work. In one spot the actress Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in Star Wars, pitched her film idea for a nineteenth-century romance. The Orange executives stated that they would only finance the film if she could somehow incorporate text messaging into the movie. Steve Davies, chief executive for the British Producers Association, explained to Brand Republic that British audiences enjoyed watching celebrities be self-deprecating. "The British public doesn't like big-headed celebrities," he said.


Carrie Fisher, the actress who played Princess Leia in Star Wars, was featured in a commercial for the U.K. mobile-phone operator Orange in 2003. Even though she first became widely known for her 1975 performance as Lorna in Shampoo, fame was not foreign to the young actress. Her parents were the singers Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, both of whom were pop icons in the 1950s. Eddie Fisher married the actress Elizabeth Taylor in 1959.


Vodafone, which outperformed Orange in revenue but not in quantity of subscribers, released a campaign in 2004 that featured billboard and bus-shelter ads with the mobile-phone text message "FAN C A" followed by an image of a shag carpet. If read aloud, the message asked, "Fancy a shag?" which in the United Kingdom meant "would you like sexual intercourse?" This advertisement, along with a billboard that featured the word "NICE" above two watermelons, was stopped by the U.K. advertising watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Vodafone released a television spot in 2004 that was also criticized. It featured a teenage boy clothed in nothing but fruit and whipped cream. He used a mobile phone to photograph himself and sent the image to his girlfriend. Some of the commercial's harshest critics accused Vodafone of encouraging pedophilia. After a review the ASA deemed the spot suitable for mature audiences.

The prominent British entrepreneur Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Records and Virgin Atlantic Airways, introduced the mobile-service operator Virgin Mobile Telecoms in 1999. Although it was dwarfed by its competition, much as Orange had been five years earlier, Virgin Mobile grew quickly by emphasizing prepaid mobile phones and airing provocative television commercials. To warn against the competition's long-term contracts, Virgin Mobile released its estimated $9 million "Be Careful What You Sign" campaign in late 2002. The campaign was created by the London ad agency Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R. One spot featured the rapper Wyclef Jean, who thought he was signing an autograph but instead signed a contract that condemned him to a mobile-home park. Jean escaped the park but was soon arrested and placed in prison. Inside the prison's group-shower area, Jean stood beside a giant man who dubiously told Jean, "Hey Superstar, pass the soap." The spot ended with the tagline "Be careful what you sign," Virgin Mobile's logo, and a voice-over explaining the freedom of prepaid calling plans.


The "Goldspot" cinema commercials first appeared in spring 2003 during movie theaters' "goldspot," a U.K. advertising term that referred to the 60 seconds just before the beginning of the featured film. Each of the campaign's first four spots featured a different Hollywood celebrity pitching his or her film idea to the Orange Film Commission, a fictional panel of executives that decided what movies Orange would finance. The spots featured Carrie Fisher from Star Wars, the X-Men 2 star Alan Cumming, the Jaws star Roy Scheider, and the director Spike Lee. After each celebrity pitched his or her film concept, the executives adulterated the pitch with possible opportunities for Orange advertisement. In one spot Lee explained the relevance of his movie idea about Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play for a Major League Baseball team, the Brooklyn Dodgers. Lee believed that the movie should "tell the world" that some causes were worth the fight. The director was interrupted by an Orange executive who suggested that Jackie Robinson should, instead, "text the world." In the spot starring Alan Cumming, the Scottish actor explained that his film would be "a rites-of-passage movie," at which point the head Orange executive yawned, "Seen it."

Leon Jaume, an executive creative director for WCRS, anatomized the campaign's humor in the business publication Marketing. "The glaze on the cherry is the unbelievable stroke of casting the clients as Philistines, regarded with contempt by their expensively hired stars," wrote Jaume. "Let's just pause to consider the implications. First, you invest heavily in a campaign reminding people how annoying your product can be, then you agree to be portrayed as a character so crass it makes [British director] Michael Winner look humble and gifted." Each spot ended with the text "Don't let a mobile phone ruin your movie. Please switch it off."

The campaign continued into 2004 with spots featuring Sean Astin, who had starred in Rudy and the trilogy The Lord of the Rings. Other spots featured Verne Troyer, who played Mini Me in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. One spot even included the character Darth Vader from the Star Wars trilogies. After Darth Vader entered the Orange Film Commission boardroom, the head executive asked, "Darth, thought you were dead, what can I do for you?" Vader pitched his concept for another film about fellow "Sith lords and their dominance over the universe." The executives ridiculed Vader's pitch by suggesting that he join the "Orange side" instead of the "Dark side"—a reference to the Star Wars trilogies.


Spike Lee, the director of controversial movies such as Malcolm X and Bamboozled, was featured in an advertising campaign for the mobile-phone operator Orange in 2003. The award-winning director was actually born Shelton Lee in 1957. His mother gave him the nickname "Spike" because of his tough nature at an early age.

The commercials sometimes mentioned mobile features such as text messaging, but they relied more on their self-deprecating humor, which the British enjoyed, according to some advertising analysts. "The marketing strategy [of Orange] has always been to put the customer at the heart of everything we do," Orange's Jeremy Dale explained in Marketing. "It's always been about being straightforward and honest and friendly. One of the challenges we are solving at the moment is making sure the services we bring to the market are what customers genuinely want. It's about changing consumers' behavior; helping them understand the benefits of the technology, not shouting at them about technology."


The "Goldspot" campaign helped Orange remain competitive with other U.K. mobile-phone operators. Determining which of the top five U.K. operators dominated the industry varied by what statistics were evaluated. Although Orange led with the most U.K. subscribers in 2003, Vodafone reported slightly higher revenue by charging more per customer. Other competitors, such as Virgin Mobile, T-Mobile International AG, and O2 plc, trailed closely behind. In the campaign's first three years, sales for Orange leapt from $17.9 billion to $26.8 billion.

From an advertising standpoint, "Goldspot" collected some of the industry's greatest awards. At the 2004 Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival the campaign won a Gold Lion for the Commercial Public Services category. Campaign rated the spots starring Alan Cumming, Sean Astin, and Verne Troyer as the best cinema commercials for 2004. The commercial starring Spike Lee earned a silver award at the 2004 British Television Advertising Awards in the category of spots that were made specifically for the cinema. Advertising critics praised the campaign not only for its self-deprecating humor but also for creating a cinema-themed message in the 60 seconds before movies started. Drawing more praise from advertising critics was the fact that the spots ended with a public service announcement requesting that mobile-phone ringers be silenced before the start of the movie.


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――――――. "WCRS Makes Shortlist for Orange Account." Brand Republic, September 18, 2002, p. 1.

                                            Kevin Teague

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Orange S. A.

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