Google ‘screen time’ and you’ll be met with – no, bombarded by – a host of articles spreading scaremongering news about the damaging effects screen have on our lives. Screen time disrupts sleep. Screen increases the risk of developing short-sightedness. Screen time is limiting the dexterity of the incoming generation of surgeon, making them worse at their jobs.
And while the conversation around screen time gathers momentum and attracts a broad range of contributors, a flurry of solutions are pouring in. Apple’s Screen Time feature enables people to scrupulously track the time they spend fixed to their phones. One recent article described how some families are now asking childminders to sign no-phone contracts to guarantee zero screen exposure for their kids. Audible’s recent ‘Mindful Moments’ campaign promoted the benefits of listening to, not looking at, your smart phone for entertainment. How much time you spend on your phone has begun to feel like an issue of mindfulness and morals.
At first glance, this debate seems like difficult territory for a mobile network to traverse. That’s why we’ve been so impressed at Three, who have entered into the conversation with a fresh, light-hearted and fun perspective, and does a convincing job of showing why #PhonesAreGood. The ad opens with a woman scrolling through her phone, her feelings of fear visibly increasing as she encounters a flurry of catastrophic screen time-related headlines. The advert then embarks on a time-travelling adventure, visiting moments in history and reimagines how they might have been different if phones had been available. One vignette shows a caveman ordering Deliveroo and avoiding starvation, while another shows how Tinder might have prevented execution of Catherine of Aragon, with Henry VIII swiping left as he sits with his mates in a raucous inn.
The conversation around the negative impacts of phones is gaining traction, and the narrative is grave and fear-evoking. But Three’s approach lightens the mood: its angle feels fresh and the comic approach lightens the mood in a much-welcome manner. We’re looking forward to see if other brands enter this debate, and how they might make their mark on it.
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