OPINION: Mills on ... 3

"No, you won't fool the children of the revoloooshun," the late Marc Bolan of T Rex warbles in the new ad for 3. As a lyricist, he may not have been in the Dylan league but, in his own way, Bolan (a dead ringer for Trev, incidentally) was clearly attempting to warn against the establishment's efforts to co-opt the counterculture he espoused.

Ironic then how, 20-odd years after his death, his songs are being used by a conglomerate such as Hutchison, the very sort of organisation he cautioned the children of the revolution to be wary of.

My colleague Mark Sweney made this TBWA\London ad Campaign's Pick of the Week, claiming that it effectively promotes 3's technology and prods us into reappraising what we want from our mobile phones. Is he right?

Judging by the snail's pace of sales of 3 handsets so far, the public is going to need an awful lot of prodding. Still, TBWA better hope that the ad works, otherwise it will prove to be its swansong on the account.

3 takes mobile phone technology a step further; in a nutshell, it combines video cameras with web access, allowing users to send each other moving pictures or Premiership goals.

It may be because this is pricey (although 3 has just slashed its rates and is giving the phones away for free), but the public has so far been distinctly underwhelmed by the promise of this technology. The new ad seeks to address this problem via a device known as The-Great-Mistakes-of-History Strategy.

Thus a shot of the earth is followed by the statement: "They said it was flat." Other fast-moving vignettes follow: the Wright Brothers' first attempt at flight ("They said it couldn't be done"); the civil-rights movement ("They said it wouldn't change anything"); and a hard-nosed 80s businessman - OK, I exaggerate - talking on a mobile phone the size of a car battery ("They said it would never catch on"). The ad ends with the line: "What do they know?" You get the idea: not wanting a video mobile phone is llike being a flat-earther.

The idea I get is that this ad is born out of a sense of frustration, the kind when mad scientists confront a disbelieving public by saying: "Look, you stupid fools, this is a vital discovery for the future of mankind. You're wrong and we're right."

Bizarre as it sounds,the ad seeks to marry some of Apple's attempt to align itself with mould-breaking iconoclasts with the current "don't-knock-it-until-you've-tried-it" line adopted by Lipton's Ice Tea. The difference, of course, is that ice tea only costs 60p: trying 3 costs a lot more and doesn't always even work. As for comparing the civil-rights movement to a mobile phone with video? Gentlemen, some perspective, please.

While it is true that we tend to overestimate the appetite for new technology in the short term and underestimate it in the long term, there are enough examples that prove people don't always want or need a better mousetrap: the Sinclair C5, Betamax or, for petrol-heads, the NSU Wankel Rotary Engine (sic).

It seems to me that 3 has allowed itself to become tech-led, and has become so hooked on this approach it has forgotten or neglected the need to actually stand for something.

Cast your mind back to the launch of Orange in 1994. As the new kid on the block, unburdened by any historical baggage, it rewrote the rules for category on things such as billings and service and thus stood for something new and different. 3 is the only genuinely all-new mobile operator, yet it has made no attempt to redefine the category. Considering that 3's management is basically the old Orange team in exile, that's a surprise. Seems they've forgotten the lessons of history too.

Dead cert for a Pencil? With cheap stock footage and zero production

values? Pah.

File under ... L for last-ditch effort.

What would the chairman's wife say? "Time to call for Hans Snook's feng

shui magic."