The anonymous CD sleeves in 3's music download advertising campaign

 by Martin Belam, 29 January 2007

I was on the top deck of a London bus last week, and noticed that all of the advertising space had been given over to promoting mobile network operator 3's music download store. They are advertising that the service has half a million tracks, and is, of course, open anywhere you can get a mobile signal, including the top deck of the bus itself.


A couple of things struck me about the advert, which featured shelves and shelves of CD sleeves like somebody's old-style CD collection, with a few recent albums turned around so the cover art is facing the camera.

Firstly, the advert pointed out that tracks could be downloaded to both handsets and to your PC, but I didn't see any small-print on it. There was no information about what DRM regime the service was using, or how many times tracks could be re-downloaded / burnt to CD / transferred to an upgraded handset etc. This is crucial information in the music download market, and I was surprised that the legal team at 3 had cleared the advert for publication without at least some legalese on it.

The second, and slightly more nerdy thing that I noticed, was about the CD sleeves used in the graphics of the advert itself.


One of the least useful skills I developed over years of working in record retail was the ability to recognise a great deal of CD titles simply by the colour and shape of the writing on their spines. This saved a considerable amount of time on a busy Saturday afternoon in the store.

On the 3 advert though, I found I couldn't recognise any album other than those featured with their full frontal artwork like those by Kasabian or DJ Shadow. Closer inspection revealed that the spines of each of the CDs in the advert have had a judicious use of the Photoshop blur and smudge tools applied to them, to render them unreadable.

I first of all thought this might be because only the exposed sleeves had paid or consented to be in the campaign - after all previously I've seen clothes shop displays having to give a credit to a record company for reproducing album artwork as part of a window display.

Universal copyright notice in the window of River Island in Walthamstow

On reflection though, I wondered if it wasn't actually more about making sure that the advert didn't by mistake feature in the photo the spine of any CD that wasn't actually available for download via 3's service, thus side-stepping any possibility of someone claiming false advertising against the company.

the views expressed on currybetdotnet are my own, and do not reflect the views of my current or former employers.


I think the pair of black and red halved one at the bottom right is a double album. Possibly the Rolling Stones.

No, actually, I have been out already today.

It's still a mystery to me why people actually go to sites and pay to download music. Any explanations?

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