Three Mobile’s Next Move

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It’s hard for network providers to forge a strong brand identity in a service market that’s often vilified by consumers. Vodafone is perennially stuck in the mud, O2 has taken its “Be More Dog” campaign one step too far, and EE has decided to stick with the new tiresome Kevin Bacon adverts as well as sponsoring a stadium for good measure.

Three Mobile has been actively trying to stand out in this crowded market in recent years through TV creatives that they hope will spread virally online. The core insight behind the adverts is that “we all need silly stuff” and Three’s mobile internet network means that customers can seek out the silly stuff at any moment. They’re fun, they’re nice to look at, but they’re ultimately quite pointless. Sure – they’ve all succeeded in going viral, but what do they really achieve in shaping our perception of the Three brand? To me they’re all flashy adverts that lack true substance and fail in expressing a strong and powerful message to the viewer. This, however, has changed with its latest creative endeavour.

Three has now found a way to cut through all of the noise in the mobile market instead of being a generator of it.

Here is a run through of Three Mobile’s recent creative endeavours and why it’s now finally hit the nail on the head with its latest campaign:


Dance Pony Dance


The Details: Three created a moonwalking pony to show that “silly stuff matters” and that customers should “keep on internetting”. It also encouraged user content creation at the now defunct ThePonyMixer.com and promoted the campaign on social media using the hashtag #DancePonyDance. The video amassed over 9m views on YouTube.

Why It Misses the Mark: Does this advert make you want to switch your network provider to Three, or does it just make you giggle? It feels like the idea for an eye-catching creative came first, and the true messaging behind the creative came second.


Sing It Kitty


The Details: Three created an advert showing a young girl riding a bike whilst singing along to “We Built This City”, along with her cat. The message was that “we all need silly stuff” and this served as an example. It also encouraged user content creation at by directing viewers to star in their own “kitten-rocking, face-morphing music video” at SingItKitty.co.uk, and the campaign was promoted on social media using the hashtag #SingItKitty. The video amassed over 5m views on YouTube.

Why It Misses the Mark: Much the same as the Dance Pony Dance creative, this spot ticks all the boxes for a viral video but falls short because of its formulaic contrived nature. Where Dance Pony Dance got tired after a few views, Sing It Kitty quickly switched from cute to annoying upon second viewing.


0800 Fun


The Details: Three decided to make all 0800 numbers free on all new 24 month plans. It wanted to prove to viewers that the deal was real, so encouraged them to call 0800 numbers owned by Three in order to engage with content, free of charge. This included a singing dictionary, a 24-hour compliment line and a nicknaming service.

Why It Misses the Mark: It’s almost a great campaign, but you have to be a new user on a 24-month price plan the use the service. Given that the general populous are wary of calling 0800 numbers because of the extra associated costs, these extra terms and conditions cast a cloud over the message. It was subsequently banned by the ASA because of the mixed and confusing messages it was giving.


Holiday Spam


The Details: Three had a new offer for customers: no extra cost for calling, texting, or using data when you’re abroad. It wanted to convey this in a way that didn’t sound like a typical “no add-ons for roaming” package that viewers may find daunting or an industry jargon assault on their minds. Three chose to film a spoof apology, saying that their new offer is so good that people on holiday are getting carried away and posting too much Holiday Spam on social networks. A fake spokesperson stated that “We deeply regret the frustration this has caused. We urge all Three customers, when abroad, please brag responsibly. Thank you.” Viewers were encouraged to use the hashtag #HolidaySpam when sharing their content from abroad via social media.

“Sorry for all the sunsets, the fancy cocktails, for plane wing after plane wing after plane wing. Sorry for the mini monuments, the beach feet, the street food, the #nofilters, the hot dog legs.” – Three apology.

Why It Hits the Spot: The offering at the centre of this advert is brought to life by the direct and genuinely funny creative that accompanies it. After Three’s big-budget and attention seeking Pony and Cat adverts, the Holiday Spam spot provides a stark contrast and benefits hugely from this. The Three Holiday Spam Crisis Centre has even been set up. The brand is now poking fun at itself and has realised that a creative that tells a story and expresses a tone that’s distinct from its competitors is a great way of forging a strong brand identity in the mobile market.

It’s only now with this latest TV creative that I’ve truly connected with the 3 Mobile brand. Before it seemed as if it was producing adverts that were designed to stare wide-eyed at headline writers across the UK to and scientifically formulated in a laboratory that guarantees a viral outcome. Now, Three has found a way to cut through the noise instead of being a generator of it.

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