CAMPAIGN: 3 lures mobile users out of the darkness

Last November, mobile phone operator 3 launched X-Series, its broadband-over-mobile service.

Campaign Launch of the X-Series
Client 3
PR team
Smartfusion and Brunswick
Timescale November 2006
Budget More than £100,000

The Nokia N73 and Sony Ericsson W950i handsets let 3 customers download unlimited video clips and music, as well as browse the internet, for a single flat rate on top of their normal handset subscription.

The service marked a change from traditional 3G packages that charge according to the amount of data downloaded. 3 also revealed that it was partnering with companies such as Skype, Yahoo!, eBay and Google to provide free and unlimited access to their services.

3 enlisted PR events firm Smart­fusion and Brunswick to organise the launch event for X-Series.

To publicise 3’s biggest event of the year and position the company as the leading provider in 3G mobile phone technology. To get as much coverage in tech media as possible. To sign up new customers, and convert existing ones, to the new service.

Strategy and Plan
Smartfusion’s brief was to house 200 journalists from three continents, as well as 150 VIPs and business partners. Not only did the event have to be memorable, but 3 needed to convince sceptical journalists that broadband access Via mobile handsets was a reality.

The PR team decided that it needed an environment where guests could experience the product in action. Hutchison – 3’s parent company – had rec­ently bought office space in the Norman Foster-designed Albion Walk complex near London’s Battersea Bridge. At the time, the basement of the building was an empty shell, without power or plumming. But Smartfusion believed the unfinished concrete structure still had the necessary ‘wow’ factor to make the launch a memorable event.

While Brunswick handled journalist invites, Smartfusion designed the concept for the event – focusing on the idea that the X-Series would move consumers ‘from the dark into the light’.

The reception was deliberately kept unlit to convey the message that before the X-Series, mobile phone technology was stuck in the dark ages. This theme was continued in the auditorium, where the event took place. As a finale, the venue was flooded with light, as 85 seamless wall-to-wall plasma screens kicked into life.

Elsewhere, a product-testing area resembled a mini exhibition of all the services available with X-Series.

Measurement and Evaluation
More than 300 journalists attended the daytime ‘dark into light’ event, while a further 200 went to a follow-up evening reception. Newspaper coverage included The Independent, The Guardian and The Times.

Online, the launch was covered on CNN, Tech Digest,,, and Trade press coverage included Mobile Today and What Hi-Fi?.

The real coup was six minutes of broadcast coverage on BBC news bulletins throughout the day by business correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones.

According to 3, official take-up rates are not ready to be published. How­ever, 3 reports that last month, 300,000 mobile phone users were registered to use its services – most of which, it says, are likely to be X-Series members. Collectively they send and receive 1.5 million messages a day.

Smartfusion has since been appointed to work with 3’s 150 retail outlets on their in-store product demonstration and display areas.


Gladys Elia (above) is managing director of Cohn & Wolfe’s Business Technology division
: Mobile subscription packages are obviously big busi­ness. They are expected to soon reach £400m, and the UK mob­ile data market alone is predicted to be worth £1bn by 2009.

However, against this backdrop is the unabated level of hype that continues around mobile phone technology. First it was 3G, now it’s 4G. But to the consu­mer, it’s all just jargon.

For mass adoption of these 3G services to take place, two things will need to be factored in to tip the balance in favour of mobile oper­ators – pricing, and custo­mer experience. This launch obvi­ou­sly concentrated on both.

Allowing the media to exper­ience the offering for them­selves is always an effective way to dem­on­strate a service and its benefits. At the core of the event was the need for hundreds of journalists to act­ually experience the service, and the event show­cased its simplicity.

Bringing together high-profile business partners and industry heavyweights also supported the commitment, strength and global reach of the mobile ecosystem as a whole.

The launch event itself, although pulled together in the time of just four weeks, reflected and enhanced the 3 brand and attracted hundreds of media. The X-Series clearly reinv­ig­orated excitement around 3G, and the two agencies involved should congratulate themselves.

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