Way back in the mists of time, the British mobile phone carrier Orange came up with quite a neat idea for an advertising campaign that reacted to a genuine public sentiment in a way that was not only funny but also a really intelligent piece of marketing.
In Britain, adverts for products typically appear prior to the trailers thereby forming a kind of de facto ‘buffer zone’ between the film’s advertised screening time and the point at which the film actually begins. Because nobody wants to watch adverts when they’ve just paid over £10 for the use of a chair for a couple of hours. Reacting to a sudden epidemic of texting and people talking on their phones during cinema screenings, Orange pitched a series of adverts to cinema chains that effectively allowed them to place an advert for phones in-between the trailers and the actual film, thereby reaching all of the people possessing the sense to not pay for the privilege of watching adverts.
The original idea was simple and effective: A series of actors and filmmakers approach the fictional ‘Orange Film Board’ in an effort to secure funding for their pet project. However, rather than funding the projects, the good people at Orange start to suggest ways in which adverts for phones could be crudely squeezed into the film. The moral? Don’t let mobile phones spoil your film and turn off your phone. Boasting a very funny regular cast, some decent scripts and some great cameos, the adverts were a success and they made Orange look good for being willing to make fun of themselves whilst making a point about anti-social use of mobile phones.
Fast forward a few years and the original chairman of the board drops out of the adverts only to be replaced by a markedly less funny doppelganger. Gradually, as the campaign grew longer in the tooth, the quality of the scripts started to decline as the adverts stopped being about great potential films ruined and started to be about terrible made-up films built around mobile phone gadgets. It wasn’t long before the campaign changed again and the Orange Film Board was replaced by actors from real upcoming films fighting fictional battles with Orange to protect the integrity of their films. This poses a number of problems that were not present in the original campaign:
Firstly, there is a world of difference between casting oneself as the villain who wants to spoil a potentially great fictional film and the villain who is trying to spoil a real film. Once the film actually exists, you’re not laughing at the movie business, you’re laughing with it and that makes you smug rather than satirical.
Secondly, there is a world of difference between casting oneself as the villain who wants to spoil a potentially great fictional film and the villain who has spoiled an incredibly shit real film. I care about the late Roy Scheider trying to make a black-and-white noir thriller; I don’t care about whether or not someone spoils The A-Team or Gulliver’s Travels. Those films are shit anyway.
Thirdly, there is a world of difference between casting oneself as the villain who wants to spoil a potentially great fictional film and the villain who is spoiling a real film, as, by including a real film, you are actually engaging in a form of product placement, something that actually does harm films. It is difficult to sell the message that you shouldn’t let a mobile phone ruin your film when your advert is an example of mobile phones ruining a film through crass product placement and the co-opting of characters, actors and filmmakers for commercial ends.
In conclusion? I hate the Orange film adverts and wish with all of my heart that they would fuck off and die.
Yes, this problem is exacerbated by the fact that I habitually go to the cinema two or three times a week but I never used to hate the Orange adverts and now every time I see them, part of me wants to die but only after I have stabbed the idiots who continue to laugh at the fucking things.
I understand that these adverts help Orange shovel money at films and so help films to be made and distributed but the films that Orange uses in its adverts were (by and large) never going to struggle to get distribution anyway. The A-Team is not some tiny indie film but a multi-million dollar Blockbuster that gets released on hundreds of screens and so, by featuring them in the adverts, Orange are just selling phones and helping Hollywood to line its already bulging pockets. So, again, I say that these Orange adverts need to fuck off. I hate the Orange mobile phone adverts and I wish that they would stop.
‘Ah,’ you say ‘but if Orange were to pull their campaign… how would punters get the message that they shouldn’t use their phones during the screening?’ Simple… you get your ushers to kick people out when they do and, if they complain, you do what the Alamo Drafthouse does: Take their not particularly articulate complaints and turn them into a meme.
I watch this advert and I want to give my money to the Alamo Drafthouse (who are reportedly a rather splendid chain of rep cinemas that do all kinds of seasons and interesting one-off screenings) and when I watch the Orange phone adverts, I want to firebomb their smug corporate offices. Fuck Orange, Remember the Alamo and long live the Magnited States of America!