Opinion: Newland on ... 3

Everyone is talking about it. I've had calls suggesting it for Turkey of the Week; our World editor, James Hamilton, has made it Pick of the Week; some friends have asked me what it means and others how much did it cost to make.

The fact is, 3's new ad is provoking a lot of interest; some good, some bad. And that's a good thing.

When Campaign heard, a couple of months ago, that the new 3 ad would be about two cowboys finding a giant jellyfish in the dessert, taking it home, giving it hooch and watching it come to life, we doubted our sources. When I saw the ad for the first time, I was surprised by our accuracy. The only thing we didn't get was that the cowboys would be Chinese.

As ads go, it's got to be one of the weirdest of all time. Fredrik Bond's direction, however, has rendered weird a rather pedestrian description of the film. It's a fantastically put together vision of a strange future. As with his other ads, such as Volkswagen "Lupo", he's managed to cram the feel of a two-hour movie into a 40-second commercial.

The notion that advertising has a duty to entertain consumers has been taken to an extreme here; you don't feel like you're watching an ad, you feel like you're watching a great science fiction movie.

Although this is the stuff of the highest creative ground, I wonder what 3 will get out of it. Yes, the film transfixes its viewers, but after it's finished, do they realise they just watched an ad for 3. The lines "We like sharing" and "Welcome to our networks" along with 3's colourful logo have been stuck on the end without much sophistication. If sharing is 3's positioning, this film does nothing to build the brand within its chosen niche.

Such an ad demands trust from the client; "don't worry, it'll work" you can hear the account man plead. In the case of 3, WCRS has the very unusual vantage point of being both client and agency simultaneously (one of the agency's founders, Julian Hough, has been seconded by 3 to work in its marketing department). You can tell. This ad is what happens when client demands get put to one side. You end up with a film that definitely pushes creative boundaries, but does it do it with the client's needs at heart?

In the run-up to Christmas there's going to be an almighty bunfight as the third-generation networks vie to fill our stockings. The mighty Vodafone (the Wal-Mart of the telecoms world) will begin selling nine new 3G handsets for the first time. And Orange announced earlier this week that it will have its 3G service up and running in time for the Christmas fight.

The troubles of 3G suppliers are well documented; an enormous initial investment has yet to be justified by consumer demand. 3 has suffered a couple of false starts, but has now managed to build a substantial customer base, not because of its video streaming but because it offers extremely competitive voice and text rates. Unlike its TV work, 3's press and radio advertising is entirely devoted to price announcements.

The jellyfish spot assumes that consumers know what 3G offers. Big branding films have been misplaced in the past because awareness of 3G wasn't high enough. However, the combination of new entrants to the market and an existing customer base might just mean that 3 is able to get away with an abstract ad about a giant jellyfish.

Dead cert for a Pencil? WCRS and Fredrik Bond should clear some shelf


File under ... W for what the hell was that?

What would the chairman's wife say? "Can I watch that again please?"

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