Great ads, but the Phones were not 4 U


September 19, 2014

Unlike other well-known high street names that have perished in recent times (Woolworths, Blockbuster, Comet, etc.), the demise of Phones 4U this week had nothing to do with the recession. This time it was more to do with the ever-shifting sands of the mobile phone industry, and, in particular, the decision of EE to follow Vodafone in not renewing their contract. Whilst this is obviously fairly crushing news for Phones 4U and their staff of nearly 6,000 people, it’s simply a reflection of the changing ways in which we as consumers choose to buy our latest smartphone.

Thinking back to when I got my first mobile contract (1999, as I recall through the mists of time) I naturally gravitated to a Phones 4U shop and bought through them, as a) the big mobile operators didn’t have a high street presence back then and b) buying online was also somewhat in its infancy. Fast forward 15 years and everything has changed. Vodafone, EE, O2 et al have less need of a middle man. They have their own stores on the high street and in the shopping mall, and the option to browse, peruse and choose online direct is something that, increasingly, people prefer to do.

The fact that Phones 4U’s advertising has always stood out for its creativity and quirkiness is something that should resonate with brands and agencies alike. When a client brave enough to choose highly conceptual campaigns still sees their business go under, it will maybe make others question whether ideas make a difference to the consumer. Personally, I think Phones 4U was simply a victim of a business model that has had its day. Good ideas will always stimulate, motivate and engage people – but if a brand is fighting a losing battle against a rapidly changing market, there isn’t a creative campaign in the world that’s going to save it from going under.

by Dave Washer

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