Matt Williams: why I miss Orange Wednesdays (and the great ad campaign from Mother)

I went to the cinema the other week for the first time in ages. Ah, how I miss those student days when you’d go pretty much every week, just because you had to find something to do that killed the time between watching Neighbours and heading to the pub.

OK, I realize I’m going to sound like a grumpy old man here, but how expensive is the cinema nowadays? Somehow, a ticket has managed to double in price within a couple of years. And if you want to sit anywhere near the middle, you have to shell out another couple of quid for the privilege.

“I miss the old days when we had Orange Wednesdays and both of us could get in for a fiver,” I remarked to Mrs Williams, who was less bothered about my moaning and more bothered about buying six penny sweets and a small coke for £2,500.

It turns out Orange Wednesdays is still going, under the guise of EE, but you wouldn’t know it. I’m the type of impressionable over-excited consumer who’d have his head swayed by an offer like that when considering network providers, but despite starting a new phone contract recently (and being one of the world’s few people who goes out of his way to consume adverts) I hadn’t been exposed to anything telling me so.

It’s a shame. Orange Wednesdays is probably my favourite all-round marketing campaign from the last 20 years or so. One of very few modern classics.

The partnership itself was the right fit – in the days before Priority Moments, Roaming Charges or the iPhone made choosing your phone network a more comprehensive decision, it was an offer like this that caught the imagination of so many. Its ticketing scheme was hugely innovative at the time, and the way it crossed media, retail and direct marketing was gamechanging. Indeed during my University years in the mid noughties, there were very few students not on Orange, simply because of this Wednesday treat.

It brought Orange into the vernacular too – I remember people asking “are you doing Orange Wednesdays this week?” – and helped an entertaining brand ‘own’ a space in the entertainment market. The likes of Three or O2, both of which do a very good job of entertaining consumers and offering them some good deals, would still love to have any association as strong as Orange had at that time.

Then of course, there were the ads. When Mother was vying for Agency of the Decade (and Orange Wednesday for Campaign of the Decade), the agency sent a DVD containing every Orange ‘Gold Spot’ to us at Campaign. It’s a DVD that still sits on my shelf today, a thoroughly entertaining way to spend twenty minutes.

Which was your favourite? I still can’t decide. It’s probably a toss-up between Rob Lowe, Darth Vader and Snoop Dog. And just goes to show the consistency you got from the campaign. Time after time you were treated to brilliant writing, exceptional performances, and a brand tie-up that just worked.

So whilst we’re being subjected to blog after blog deriding the death of advertising, the changing of the guard, the demise of cinema ads, the lack of industry personalities, and the rising cost of cinema tickets, take a few minutes instead to remind yourself that every so often, everything can still click in to place.

As the nights draw in, the days get colder and the summer holidays begin to seem like a distant memory, that’s still a heartening thing to think.

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