Q&A with Bill Gaughan
As the crowds descend upon Glastonbury 2017, our founding partner, Bill remembers the summer of 2000 when 999 helped Orange create a surreal and irreverent brand experience that invited festival-goers to 'Recharge. Relax. And Refresh'.
It's also a tantalising insight into the music scene before selfies, smartphones and Ed Sheeran, so join us on another nostalgia-filled trip to celebrate one of our major creative highlights from the past 35 years.
How did 999 become Orange’s partner for Glastonbury 2000?
We began working with Orange in 1996, launching the brand’s pay-as-you-go phones and we never looked back for the next 7 years. Over this period we became Orange’s go-to design agency. We worked on a myriad of different projects from new handset launches and phone packaging to the brand’s in-store point of sale. We also produced the marketing materials for Orange’s foray into Formula 1 with the Orange Arrows team.
Going into the new millenium, Orange decided to directly target the youth market via music and placed the summer music festivals of 2000 – Glastonbury, Reading, Leeds and T in the Park, at the heart of this initiative.
What was the brief and how much creative freedom did you have?
It was an amazing brief for amazing times. Our brief was simple: to create an Orange customer experience in the open fields of Glastonbury. As Orange was the festival’s communications partner, the team wanted to offer customers the opportunity to recharge their phones on site at the festival. The brief was completely open but we had to operate within Glastonbury’s ‘no corporate branding’ policy. In response we created The Orange Wedge where festival goers could ‘enjoymusic’ and Recharge. Relax. And Refresh.
Any challenges or memorable moments along the way?
The project was six months in the planning. The first meeting with the Orange team was a real eye opener with over 25 interested parties around the table. Sponsorship teams, brand teams, the PR team (headed by Sara Macdonald who went on to be Mrs Noel Gallagher), customer support teams and the tech guys who would deliver the on-site telecom coverage.
First we set about creating the structure. With our architect, John Macleod, we developed the thought of projecting the Orange brand as an artistic installation in its own right. Sure, the project had a specific utility - a phone charging site - but the brand projection had to be one of fun, irreverence and imagination.
We avoided creating an obvious tented structure as we wanted to be at one with the spirit of the festival. Instead we created 'The Orange Wedge' by lifting a slice of the Glastonbury field to create a viewing elevation by means of a turfed wedge. This formed an enclosure underneath to house the required charging station and we then formed a clear polycarbonate 'tent' for front of house activity and rain cover with turfed interior walls to bring the outside in.
As Glastonbury’s ‘no brand’ policy meant that we had to develop more subliminal branding, we invited the Glasgow-based art collective Heisenberg’s ‘Journeymen’ to the site. These 7 foot tall, fearsome, orange figures populated the space and climbed the slope of the wedge, adding spectacle and surreal humour. Eight of these guys mysteriously disappeared over the course of the festival. One was last seen tied to the roof of an exiting campervan and another was found standing lonely in the queue at the noodle stall.
The Wedge illuminated at night with animations playing across the roofspace and these were mirrored on monitors throughout the space. It was an amazing vibe. We also designed a suite of postcards, wristbands, tees and giveaways for Orange customers.
How did you make Orange fit in with the festival culture and stand out from the crowd?
From the outset, Orange was a game changing brand. It was the fastest growing mobile network on the planet but it never felt corporate. It was human, passionate and personal and built real connections with its customer base. So the first inherently cool technology brand and its culture felt totally at home at Glastonbury. Young, free and rebellious. Our concept mirrored this perfectly.
What did you do to add real value for festival goers?
You have to remember that this was before the power of the internet really kicked in. No wifi, no smartphones, no social media. Text messaging allowed revellers to keep in touch on site and Orange set up phone hotlines with up to date festival information. There were queues at the phone charging station from the start of the day until closing time throughout the festival and cold drinks were dispensed free to customers. And when the rain descended it offered a place of shelter. Perfectly summing up the Orange proposition of ‘enjoymusic’ and Recharge. Relax. And Refresh.
What was it like collaborating with Glastonbury?
Glastonbury, although projecting a very anarchic, non corporate façade is an incredibly strong brand in its own right and is very protective of its alternative ethos. It will clamp down hard on any obvious corporate exploitation of the festival and so we had to liaise closely with the Glasto team along the way. But in fairness, they were totally at ease with our concepts.
How well was the Orange brand experience received?
The client feedback was generally incredibly positive, This was Orange’s first major foray into the music marketplace and it was an unmitigated success. Festival goers loved the space and welcomed the phone charging service. We also installed The Wedge at T in the Park later in the summer and a trailer based version landed at Reading and Leeds. The sight of last day T in the Park revellers sliding down the muddy slopes of The Wedge in the pouring rain, totally ignoring health and safety warnings was hilarious but scary!
The ‘enjoymusic’ theme that we created was rolled out further afield into Ibiza club nights and the Orange brand continued its festival activities until tranforming into EE where it still partners with Glastonbury today.
What advice would you anyone who wants to create the perfect festival experience?
It's all about getting the right team in place well in advance of the event. With an outdoor festival, planning is everything. You have to cover all the eventualities from weather to site conditions to health and safety. We work closely with guys we know and trust. Our architect John Macleod has worked together with 999 for years and Elevation, our build partner, has helped create a number of major installations for 999 over the years.
A look back at the Glastonbury 2000 line-up. Check out that font!