Three, the U.K.’s smallest mobile network, will run platform-specific promotions on Snapchat and Tinder over the next three months. Three hopes those businesses help convince customers it isn’t just as a mere utility, even as those same tech players capture a growing share of its customers’ attention.

On Snapchat, Three will sponsor the messaging app’s revival of popular AR lenses such as the “rainbow puke” one. Tinder will feature profiles for Henry VIII and his six wives, who all appear in its latest ad. Instagram will host the so-called “dead-scrolling Olympics” for the brand. Devices from Samsung, which is Three’s main handset partner, will also feature throughout the mobile network ads.

“We’ve not done much of these partnerships in the past,” said Shadi Halliwell, CMO at Three. “I think all these things become shared economies. There’s plenty of money in the industry. It’s about how you partner with the right people.”

Mini-exclusives such as the ones Three has secured are a growing trend amongst telcos in the U.K. Over the last year or so, Three introduced its customer perks app — Wuntu — offering exclusive discounts to its subscribers, while O2 has had its O2 Priority app for many years offering similar perks such as free coffee or early access to gig tickets. In terms of business opportunities, it is difficult to see any direct monetary gain from an exclusive filter or special Tinder profile. It’s more about positioning Three for more innovative service strategies in the future, said Halliwell.

Three’s closeness to the tech firms is reflected in the media strategy for its #Phonesaregood campaign, which Halliwell said debuted online ahead of TV. Still, TV accounts for the bulk of the campaign’s media spend (53 percent), followed by outdoor (24 percent) and then social and digital (23 percent), according to a company spokesperson. Spend on social is likely to rise next year as the business will launch its in-house social media studio in December.

There’s a growing backlash against how much time people spend on their phones but Three wants the likes of Snapchat and Tinder to remind the public of the benefits of them too. It’s a contrarian stance Halliwell felt the brand had to take ahead of a push for new customers next year when the business will promote itself as the next generation of mobile communications with the arrival of 5G. The mobile network, according to Halliwell, owns the largest share of the 5G spectrum, which could lead pave the way for larger partnerships with its current crop of partners. Halliwell would not share those plans, though did reveal the strategy will focus on digital products and services.

“5G is our silver bullet as a business,” said Halliwell. “We have to create excitement for the Three brand as we are today so that when we do go out there with different messages around 5G that we already have a good rapport with our base. The partnerships help do that because without them it’s just calls and texts.”

Mobile operators are facing price squeezes and increased competition as allocations of voice minutes and text messages are increasingly less relevant, and all services are now available through the internet, said Tony Maroulis, research manager at Ampere Analysis. “As a result mobile operators are looking at alternative methods of differentiating themselves from the competition and exclusive Snapchat filters and Tinder profiles are perks that individually seem small but combined may be able to help reduce churn (even if it a small amount) amongst subscribers,” said Maroulis.

Image courtesy of Three.

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