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PARIS -- In what has been widely touted in France as the "pitch of the year," France Telecom has selected Havas Advertising's Euro RSCG BETC, Paris, to handle a radical rebranding in its mobile telephony division that will see it gradually replace three existing brands with that of its pan-European mobile operator, Orange.

The appointment followed a tough battle against the Paris shops of France Telecom's three roster agencies on the mobile phone account: CLM/ BBDO, which handles the Itineris budget, TBWAFrance, which handles the Ola budget, and Lowe Lintas & Partners, which handles the Mobicarte account.

Neither France Telecom nor Euro RSCG were willing to put a figure on the Orange budget, but leading media analyst Secodip calculates that the company spent upward of $140 million in 2000 on advertising for its mobile division.

The company's cellular phone operations reported just over 15 million clients in France, or about a 50% market share, at the end of the first-quarter 2001.

The Itineris, Mobicarte and Ola brands are all scheduled for discontinuation in the French market by the end of 2001, when the Orange brand will become France Telecom's principal mobile telecommunications marketing vehicle.

Orange currently offers mobile phone services to 33 million clients in 19 countries worldwide and holds licenses for third-generation, Internet-capable phone networks in the region's major markets.

The demise of the three brands and the preeminence of Orange is directly linked to France Telecom's strategy for becoming a global operator with divisions in 50 countries by 2005. -- Lawrence J. Speer

Copyright April 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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