Magazine's review of advertising
THE PRODUCT: 3 video phones
Are you sitting comfortably...?
THE BRIEF: Give the 3 brand a "personality" people can identify with
THE MEDIUM: TV
THE SCRIPT: Actress Anna Friel splashes about in various watery settings, telling us in her wide-eyed way about the concept of evolution while Louis Armstrong's La Vie En Rose plays gently in the background.
WHAT'S GOING ON HERE?
You can't blame 3 for lack of effort.
Since the launch of its pioneering service in March last year it has tried everything - from blokey humour to sex - to sell the concept of video phones to a decidedly sniffy public.
But even its decreasingly subtle attempts to introduce the idea of sending saucy images through your phone (one recent poster featured a shapely woman's leg leading to a stiletto heel, with the line "All I'm wearing. Now") have failed to ignite sales.
...then I'll begin
The company fell far short of its target of one million subscribers by the end of 2003.
Now it has turned to celebrity endorsement, hiring former Brookside actress Anna Friel to add a bit of glamour and personality to the brand.
The result is a self-consciously classy, cinematic piece of work - an attempt to take 3 into the realm of Orange or One2One (before it became T-Mobile).
Things evolve, Miss Friel says, so it's only natural that phones should move from wires, first to mobiles, and then to "3 video mobile".
But curiously she does not have a "3 video mobile" on hand to demonstrate this great leap forward.
Last year, 3 was rapped by regulators for artificially enhancing the picture quality of its video messaging service in its TV ads.
Water carry on
"Compared with the commercial, the sound and video image were disjointed, and subject to breaking up. The colour was washed out and low in contrast and picture definition was not as clear as in the commercial," said the ITC ruling.
Parent company Hutchison admitted it had used a "dummy shot" in some ads, but said this was for technical reasons, rather any conscious effort to mislead consumers.
The fact that its latest big budget production does not include a product demonstration is not a reaction to that ruling, the company insists.
"It is not a technology pitch," explains a spokeswoman. "It is about showing a softer, more human side to the brand."
In truth, 3 has experienced all of the problems of being the first to market, with very few of the advantages.
Handset supply was an early problem, which it now says it has rectified. But according to Adam Vaughan, of gadget-lovers' magazine T3, the quality and range of handsets remains limited.
The next stage in evolution, says Anna
The irony, he adds, is that better models will only become available when the other UK networks launch their video services in the autumn.
With the launch this week of a pre-pay service, 3 is "confident" of a more successful 2004, a spokeswoman says, adding that 3 is challenging the status quo in the UK mobile market.
The Anna Friel ad is part of a wider campaign to broaden 3's appeal from the oafish, male persona of the early ads, which were aimed squarely at so-called early adopters.
But, she adds, "we are not talking in terms of targets this year".
Compiled by Brian Wheeler
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