O2 – Paving the way for digital connectivity

Strength+Honour worked with O2 over a 2 year period on a campaigning project to help the mobile operator address the capacity issues that were hampering the development of digital infrastructure across the UK, but particularly in London.

Capacity issues mean that mobile customers have an apparently good signal (4G) but can’t access data.  Imagine commuters who want to use their mobiles at London’s busiest stations at rush hour to check train delays, pay bills through on-line banking, catch up with work emails or try to watch last night’s goals, and nothing happens –  you can almost feel their frustration. This is what a lack of capacity to carry the sheer volume of data we want to access through our mobile phones means to consumers.

The project aimed to highlight that the UK was reaching a point where capacity would be outstripped by demand, in order to encourage Government, Ofcom, landlords and businesses to work together to improve planning applications in order to address the issue more quickly for the benefit of all mobile users.

O2 wanted to take a leadership position in challenging the status quo in order to adapt to consumer demands proactively. However, in order to take a lead, it was imperative that the key target audiences and decision makers understood the scale of the issue in the first place. The business goals were clear.

To create a better environment for building and improving the O2 network through:

  • Stimulate debate
  • Increasing understanding of the issues amongst key stakeholders
  • Reforming planning regulations around mobile infrastructure

S+H were the lead agency across this project, focused on strategy and creative, and  working with Blue Rubicon (PR) and Portland (Public Affairs).  We developed a campaign plan to address a disconnect between the key target audience’s view of the issue and O2’s goals to improve mobile infrastructure .

To correct this disconnect, we delivered a campaign which addressed three core stages of engagement.


Elevate mobile to priority status in the infrastructure debate and bring the scale of the problem to life


Improve the understanding and relevance of the capacity issues amongst decision-makers


Create the mandate for political action to solve the problem and demonstrate the solutions

We had clearly defined communications goals.

  • Create a consistent narrative with different chapters, which integrates with O2’s business goals and wider messaging
  • Lead the conversation on behalf of the industry showcasing the art of the possible
  • Create a movement that positively influences thinking
  • Bring it to life with genuine, powerful, original content to inform, inspire and persuade
  • Drive an internal focus around why the raising capacity is fundamental to both O2 and the entire UK mobile network

Our core narrative was based on consistent key messages that were adapted to suit the audience and channel, but always linked back to the communication and business goals.

  • Capacity remains the mobile industry’s biggest challenge
  • Demand for data is growing every month and 100% year on year
  • Dense urban areas are a key focus, with rural areas following
  • London is feeling the heat as capacity demand outstrips supply –  and other urban locations will quickly follow
  • There is a need for change to infrastructure planning and maintenance agreements to allow more dynamic and effective response to consumer demand
  • the industry would approach network builds very differently
  • There is a need for collective political urgency and support to set the right and fair conditions for mobile infrastructure investment

S+H developed a mosaic communication plan which weaved multiple messages across multiple campaign strands, to multiple audiences, exploiting multiple communications opportunities. These included:

  • Over-arching narrative
  • Copy Platform
  • Statistics page/fact sheet
  • Tone of Voice document and glossary
  • Q&A document

  • Messaging Matrix split down by nine identified audience groups
  • Narrative redefined for key target audiences
  • Angles and arguments for each audience to ensure that all strands intertwine

  • Ident, look and feel – Developing the O2 brand for a policy change campaign and Government audience
  • Campaign brand guidelines

  • Property events (e.g. MiPiM)
  • Smart building and innovation
  • Key business events
  • Infrastructure events
  • O2 owned roundtable in conjunction with Wired Score and Estates Gazette
  • London Real Estate Forum partnership

Case Studies to provide rich content and context to bring the campaign to life
  • Aberdeen capacity testing project
  • Staylittle – bringing connectivity to rural locations
  • Westminster LTE – urban testing
  • Shanghai vs London – connectivity in context comparison

The campaign engaged with a huge number of targeted stakeholders including Sadiq Khan and Greg Clark and stimulated debate and understanding of the complex challenges facing digital infrastructure in the UK.

A year into the campaign, planning laws were relaxed to allow faster planning permission to be granted, and allowing the deployment of cutting edge cells, masts and repeaters as the UK Government confirmed commitment to the changes to the Electronic Communications Code outlined in the Digital Economy Bill.  These changes paved the way for further collaboration around the rollout of 5G.