Creative Director’s Choice: David Billing from the Beyond Collective on Three's history-altering ad

Three's 'Phones Are Good' ad

Creative Director’s Choice gives creative directors a chance to highlight the work they think is the best out in the ad world — the ads and campaigns they believe are making a difference.

This week, David Billing, chief creative officer of the Beyond Collective, talks up W+K’s effort for Three to show the importance of cell phones and how they could have made moments in history better.

Brand purpose is a bit like the hipster beard. It was cool, then everyone had one, and now it's a bit tired. And talking of beards, or the lack of them, you only need to look at Gillette's recent demographic-detonating Fubar of a purpose-led campaign to see what happens if brands go and play in places they're not welcome. Or, skipping back a year, look at Kendall Jenner halting the end of western democracy with a can of Pepsi.

So, it was good to see a brand deal with a cultural hot potato and not burn itself. Three, as a network provider, had every right to wade into the issue of whether our semi-symbiotic relationship with mobile phones is rotting our brains and doing its bit to hasten the collapse of civilisation. And wade in they did. With an absolute belter of an ad which is snarky, silly, serious and surreal in equal measure.

‘Phones Are Good’ saw a little-known outfit called Wieden+Kennedy team up with Ian Pons Jewell, a young director whose meticulously-executed, adrenalised films just get better and better. Defying the consensus moan that phones are ruining our lives, the ad says: stop for a minute and think of all the brilliant, positive things that the computer in your pocket can do. And rather than telling that story in some drippy, slice-of-life John Lewis fashion, Three and team scale the heights of nonsense and plunge into the depths of time to imagine how history would have been different if we'd always had mobiles.

Starving Neanderthals order a Deliveroo. Henry VIII swipes left instead of slicing necks. The Titanic swerves the 'berg thanks to GPS. A wandering Israelite snaps the parting of the Red Sea on Insta.

It's all utterly ludicrous, but joyously so. It's a technicolour, strident middle finger to the received wisdom that modern life is rubbish. Like Factfulness by the wonderful and sadly departed Hans Rosling, it's such a breath of fresh air to be in the presence of unbounded positivity in these introspective, negative times.

Phones are good. Life is OK. Be happy.

David Billing is chief creative officer at the Beyond Collective, a micro-network of specialist companies in London. He has a beard.

To see the latest creative ads and campaigns, visit The Drum’s Creative Works section. If you would like to feature a creative director in our Creative Director’s Choice, please contact Creative Works editor Kyle O’Brien.

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