|Bradley Cooper and an Orange tissue box|
Utter the words Orange film ads to any cinema-goer in the U.K. and you are likely to witness a wide range of emotions: hilarity, rage, laughters, palpitations, quiet resignation, a punch in the face... Love them or hate them, they have become an unavoidable fixture of the cinema going experience, just like noisy ASBO kids on a saturday night screening and overpriced stale popcorn. But how did it all begin? And what does the future holds for them? (To paraphrase them I would assume that the future is bright, the future is Orange)
|Danny Glover and Mr Dresden|
A few years ago, just as Orange was launching their brilliant Orange Wednesday initiative (send a text to Orange and get two tickets for the price of one), they also unleashed what was to become an ongoing serie of adverts, to emphasise their support of films, which were screened just before the film. Every single film. At every screening. In every single cinema in the U.K.
The plot was always the same, with subtle variations: A Hollywood has-been (sorry a "popular actor who has become more picky with their parts") would pitch their new project to the Orange film funding board, led by corporate executive stereotype Mr Dresden (played by American actor Brennan Brown who none of us ever managed to take seriously in films ever again.)
|Rob Lowe in an Orange advert|
The joke would be that the star was trying to show a less commercial and wider acting range in their project. Yet their dreams would be crushed by the more commercial driven Orange film funding board, which, fancying itself as a bit of a Hollywood player and taking a post-modern swipe at Orange's own image as a money driven corporate giant, (it was the 00's after all, at a time where post-modern jokes were popular, remember?), manipulated the project to turn it into a giant Orange product placement advert, with a crass disregard for realism or even logic.
They were many hits. The Rob Lowe one, whose dream of a serious part as a journalist an All the president's men remake was turned into an Orange-logo thong wearing lifeguard. The Sigourney Weaver one where she played the high priestess of the Snake (from the old school phone game snake) was surreal.
They were a few misses: The Dennis Hopper Speed one, where the late Easy Rider actor looked off his face and wondering in which set he had wandered off to. Or the Darryl Hannah one where Mr Dresden attempted mermaid speak while having his teeth whitened, or something. And there was a couple of masterpieces: Steven Seagal's one, involving a golf cart chase, explosions and ninja kicks. Or Angelica Huston, channeling Morticia Adams with a disturbed and neurotic turn involving a pair of scissors.
|Steven Seagal in an Orange advert|
Last year, they took a radical change. Having presumably run out of washed out 80's stars, they amped up the stakes. And unleashed a new breed of Orange film ads, badder, meaner, more expensive looking, punching well over their own weight. Now they were not making fun of blockbusters, they WERE blockbusters.
This new batch had the actual cast of an upcoming blockbuster, starting off with The A-team, being made to unwittingly advertise Orange in scenes lifted from the trailer. This was a risky strategy, as the first two blockbusters in the making selected, The A-team and Gulliver's travels, turned out to be very modest hits in the U.K. (and who wants to be associated with a loser?). The following choice, Rio, was a safer bet, and had the tropical bird suffering the ignominy of being filmed through a crummy 3G phone and turned orange.
So over the years, we have laughed, we have laughed again, we had rolled our eyes when seeing them for the hundredth time while some newbie was chuckling in the cinema. Yet, looking back, hidden underneath the laughs, did these ads have a more serious message and ambition? They were indeed describing the complicated relationship between art and money, and the artist's Faustian struggle to be noticed without losing its integrity.
A new ad is about to be unveiled, just as the Rio spin off has reached the point where most of us would stab their eyes with a rusty needle repeatedly rather than having to watch it once more. And I have insider information. Expect a bold move, a new, darker direction... Are you thinking a The skin that I live in spin off? A Terence Malick-directed The tree of life spin off? You might not be far off from the truth...