Three and Samaritans encourage people to be better listeners

The work by Wonderhood educates people about common listening traits.


Three UK has launched a campaign with the charity Samaritans that encourages the nation to become better listeners as more people face mental health challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The “#BetterPhoneFriend” campaign, created by Wonderhood Studios, introduces Three’s three-year partnership with Samaritans, which kicked off earlier this year. It debuts online today (29 April) and will run across TV, video-on-demand and radio starting tomorrow, premiering during ITV’s Coronation Street at 7:30pm and Channel 4’s GoggleBox at 9pm.

A series of simple animated films dramatises five common listening personalities – the worrier, filler, attention splitter, interviewer and fixer – to help viewers identify their own traits and how to overcome them. A “listener” and a “talker” are represented in the films by spheres without identifiable features, so that anyone can project themselves on to either role. 

“Listening to someone else is one of the most powerful things you can do for them,” the voiceover says. 

Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter, members of the band McFly, also feature in campaign videos, sharing their personal experiences of the past year and discussing what it means to be a good listener.

“#BetterPhoneFriend” is a counterpoint to recent mental health campaigns from other brands, such as ITV’s “Britain get talking”, which have encouraged people to open up and talk more about their problems and feelings, Wonderhood creative director Jack Croft explained. 

“The biggest thing we wanted to draw on is the fallout of the mental health crisis from last year. Three is working with Samaritans in a genuine way to encourage communication between people,” he said. “There are lots of things saying to talk or open up, but one of the big things that Samaritans talks about is being able to listen. Most people aren’t very good at listening.”

The work was created by Jack Croft and Stacey Bird and produced by Moth Studios. Zenith handled media planning and buying.

A recent survey commissioned by Three found that one in three Brits admitted that their mental health had worsened during the pandemic, while 90% agree that speaking to someone has positively affected their situation.

The brand’s partnership with Samaritans aims to connect one million people to emotional support, by expanding support services and offering training, resources and fundraising initiatives. 

Aislinn O’Connor, director of marketing for UK and Ireland at Three, said: “We’re proud to be working in partnership with Samaritans on this campaign. The films are a powerful way to create a moment of calm in our busy lives, whilst raising awareness of the importance of listening. At Three we believe that we can all be better listeners – and Better Phone Friends – by making that call, listening and connecting to our loved ones.”

Julie Bentley, chief executive at Samaritans, added: “Listening is a vital skill that can truly change a person’s life, and we can all learn to be better listeners. Active listening may not come easily to people, particularly when confronted by a difficult conversation with a friend or loved one who is going through a hard time, but it can make a real difference. By encouraging and teaching people not just to talk, but how to be a better listener, we can help open up more conversations when they matter most.”

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