Three counters Britain's future threats in joyous 'Phones are good' sequel

Ad asks: 'Hey UK, U OK hun?'

Three offers an optimistic view of a 5G-powered future in its biggest brand campaign to date. 

"Real 5G", created by Wieden & Kennedy London, is a follow-up to the 2018 campaign "Phones are good", which took on smartphone haters by showing how the devices have actually improved society. However, whereas "Phones are good" journeyed through the past, with vignettes from periods including the Stone Age, Henry VIII’s reign and the Titanic’s maiden voyage, the latest instalment time-travels to a not-so-distant future when 5G has changed British life for the better.

The ad provides an antidote to negative headlines and bleak forecasts of the UK’s future. Opening on a current news broadcast that predicts dismal times ahead, it shows a phone with a text reading: "Hey UK, U OK hun?" 

Viewers are then transported through a wormhole to futuristic scenes that have recognisable elements of British culture. For example, Tinder dating is boosted by holograms, a woman taking a commercial spaceflight to the moon blocks out her annoying fellow passenger and downloads episodes of Bits Planet thanks to Three’s 5G, and the technology enables a robotic England team to finally win the World Cup. There is also a cameo from Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi, who appears as a 5G hologram in a couple’s home. 

The work was created by Adam Newby and Will Wells, and directed by Ian Pons Jewell, who also shot "Phones are good", through Academy. Zenith is the media agency. 

"Real 5G" will premiere on TV on 27 February, with a 90-second version set to air during ITV’s Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway on 29 February. It will also run across Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, digital, out-of-home and in stores, and different futuristic vignettes will appear on channels throughout the year. 

Three partnered brands including Tinder, Samsung, YouTube Music, Deliveroo and Greggs to feature in the campaign. In March, the telecoms company will launch an Instagram lens that gives customers a glimpse of their future 5G job. 

Shadi Halliwell, chief marketing officer at Three UK, said it was crucial for the campaign to celebrate Britain at a time when many people might be feeling conflicted about the country’s future: "We discovered that people want to be proud of Britain again… so it was really important to make this feel like Britain is great again in the future."

The spot also aims to make a future with 5G more relatable and counter the perception that the technology will not make much of a difference any time soon. 

"It’s very hard to paint a relevant picture of the future. We had to make it relatable. Nothing in it could be so far away that you couldn’t ever imagine it happening," Halliwell said. 

Three launched its 5G home broadband service last year and is rolling out its 5G network across the UK this year. Its marketing boasts that it will be "the fastest 5G network in the country". 

The company has planned several initiatives throughout 2020 to promote 5G. Earlier this month, it partnered Central Saint Martins at London Fashion Week to create an immersive, multisensory catwalk with 5G. It has signed up to be the shirt sponsor of Chelsea and promised to ensure Stamford Bridge is 5G-enabled within the first year of the partnership. Three also has a deal in the works with Greene King pubs to explore how the pub experience could be improved by 5G, Halliwell added.

However, Cisco’s recent study offers a different view of 5G’s future. In 2023, Cisco predicts, only 10.6% of devices or connections will be 5G – this could mean that the superfast network roll-out takes several years longer or will not soon make a significant impact, despite marketing hype from telecoms brands.

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