Three and W&K's decade-long mission for viral fame

W&K won creative account in 2011.

Three: 'We Built This City' featured Starship's famous ballad
Three: 'We Built This City' featured Starship's famous ballad

Three and Wieden & Kennedy's partnership has come to an end after 10 years.

The ad account, which was originally valued at £18m, has seen the pair produce a series of weird and wonderful ads, from a puppet called Jackson to a Fleetwood Mac-loving Shetland pony.

As Three searches for a new creative agency, Campaign has compiled a round-up of the telecoms company's best ads by Wieden & Kennedy.

‘The pony’ (2013) 

Embracing the power of social media in building relationships with potential customers, "The pony" saw a Shetland pony channel Michael Jackson, moonwalking across the coastline to Everywhere by Fleetwood Mac.

Supported by an app that allowed users to customise their own dancing pony, the work was created by Freddie Powell and Hollie Walker.

'We Built This City' (2014)

Three’s next viral attempt featured a young girl and her CGI cat as they lip-sync to Starship's We Built This City during a seemingly unremarkable bike ride.

This came alongside a SingItKitty app that allowed people to star in their own version of the ad. Meanwhile, Starship’s ballad rose to number 25 in the official UK single downloads chart thanks to the spot.

The work was written by Chris Lapham, art directed by Aaron McGurk and directed by Traktor through Partizan.

‘#HolidaySpam’ (2014)

Three hailed the emergence of its "Feel at home" service in France, Switzerland, Israel, Finland and Norway with a tongue-in-cheek spot apologising for users and their limitless ability to post about their holidays online.

It won gold at the 2016 UK Effie Awards and ranked as the most-awarded campaign for effectiveness in the UK in 2015, according to the Warc Effective 100.

The campaign was written by Anthony Atkinson, art directed by Greg Kouts and directed by Ric Cantor through Hungry Man. 

‘0800 fun numbers’ (2014) 

Claims of free calls to 0800 numbers turned sour when the ad – which showed one woman’s surreal call to a directory called the "singing dictionary" – was deemed "misleading" by the Advertising Standards Authority.

However, in an attempt to go the extra mile, Wieden & Kennedy compiled a quirky list of 0800 numbers that people could call if they were experiencing unfounded levels of boredom, the likes of which many people are currently experiencing on lockdown. 

The work was written by Becca Pottinger, art directed by Sam McCluskey and directed by Chris Palmer through Gorgeous.

‘#MakeItRight’ (2015)

With a nod to everyone’s favourite musical puppets, Three’s next earworm saw a purple puppet named Jackson as he attempted to make his life better to the tune of East 17’s It’s Alright.

The work was written by Bertie Scrase, art directed by Christen Brestrup and directed by Daniel Wolfe through Somesuch.

‘Unboxing’ (2015)

Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen (who worked on the 2011 version of The Thing), Three‘s 15-rated spoof of The Blair Witch Project saw Jackson head into the woods to test the performance of LG’s G4 smartphone.

A puppet may not seem scary, but the five-minute ad’s viewer discretion warning says otherwise.

‘Go roam’ (2017)

Jackson's short screen career came to an end with the emergence of Three’s "giraffe-amingo", which depicted a sheepish baby giraffe that miraculously gained flamingo feathers, all to the tune of Shoop by Salt-N-Pepa. It sounds disturbing, but it looks stellar.

Katy Edelsten and Chloe Cordon created the campaign, while The Perlorian Brothers directed the film through MJZ. The Mill crafted the visual effects. 

Phones are good’ (2018) 

A visual razzmatazz of colours, genres, eras and cultures, "Phones are good" parodied claims that phones are having a damaging impact on wider society. 

While the Titanic’s captain avoided destruction by checking his phone’s weather feature, Eve (of Adam and Eve – the first humans, not the agency) avoided the birth of original sin by scrolling through her Instagram timeline.

The work was created by Tom Bender and Tom Corcoran, and directed by Ian Pons Jewell through Friend. 

‘Real 5G’ (2020)

If "Phones are good" was a visually dense experience, "Real 5G" is a borderline assault on your eyeballs. 

Looking forward to the future of smartphones, the ad depicted driverless hovercars, real-life face filters and trips to the moon on board "Spacy McSpaceface".

It was created by Adam Newby and Will Wells, and directed by Ian Pons Jewell through Academy. 

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