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CREATIVE STRATEGY: Three makes the '80s dull. Quite an achievement.

I've worked on more telecoms briefs than I can remember. From Mercury Communications to Virgin Media, consumer TV to B2B banners, "It's Good To Talk" to "The future's bright", writes Simon S Kershaw.

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If these briefs had anything in common it was this: most people, most of the time, couldn't give a shit about their telecoms network. Mobile handsets? Sure! Applications? Of course. Pricing? Aye, even the tedium of tariffs beats cables and coverage in the league of "Do I really care?"

A brief to promote a "better network" is therefore going to be something of a challenge. Unfortunately, Three's answer shows more of the problems than a neat solution.

Three arrived on the scene as the network that was "future-proofed" and ready for anything that emerging communications technologies could throw at it. Hmmmm. Apparently not. Because now we have a big ad campaign telling us that Three will be bigger, better, faster.  

First question: better than what? This is not a competitive claim. If I'm on Vodafone and perfectly happy with it (which I am, by the way) this advertising is of no interest to me.

For Three customers, it promises faster internet speeds, i.e., less frustration when you're googling or facebooking on the move. How much faster? How much less frustration? Dunno.

Short on relevant facts and figures or specific and credible claims (maybe we'll find them on the website if we get that far), the ads do have a hook. Or should that be borrowed interest?

On TV, posters and press we're presented with a gung-ho team of engineers led by a power-shouldered lady striving to do whatever it is makes for a better network. It's an OTT, tongue-in-cheek, pastiche of ‘80s corporate culture with a nod to "Tropic Thunder".

But it's just not funny or engaging. It's often been said that if you can recall the ‘80s, you didn't do that decade properly. Excess, hedonism, greed - all fascinating ingredients for our more prissy times.

But look at the Three ads. For reasons best known to them, the art directors have dipped the imagery in shades of the dirty protest. It's poo. While the copy is so feeble, even the dusty pun "This net-works!" gets a look-in. Sigh.

Networks will never be the sexiest category on the block.  Entertain us (as Orange did with their original cinema ads) or make robust claims (see Virgin Media Business). And do it with conviction.

Simon S Kershaw is a creative consultant and a former creative director at Craik Jones.

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