Close-Up: Live Issue - How Nokia is putting the mobile centre stage

Nokia's new 'reality' campaign shows how the mobile phone could become the gateway to our lives.

Tapping into our inner voyeur, Nokia has created a global campaign that opens up the fictional lives of three beautiful twentysomethings through their mobile phones.

The six-week series, created by Wieden & Kennedy, follows the 24/7 real-time antics of Anna, Luca and Jade in three different time zones: London, Los Angeles and Shanghai respectively.

However, the three storylines are told, in their entirety, through text messages, pictures, videos and voicemails from fictional friends, lovers and family members.

At its heart, the campaign revolves around the concept that you learn more about a person by looking through their phone than by talking to them for an hour. The different elements are connected by the line: "My phone knows everything about me. If you found my phone, would you look through it?"

In total, Wieden & Kennedy has put together 3,750 pieces of scripted content to tell their tales online - on Facebook and on www.someoneelsesphone.com. And this number will rise, as viewers interact with the characters online and via text messages.

The idea for the campaign came from the creative team of Fabian Berglund and Ida Gronblom, who wanted to create something that "felt much closer to the lives of young people" and tapped into the feeling of panic people experience when they lose their mobile phone.

The series, Someone Else's Phone, was created to launch Nokia's Supernova range of handsets, and kicked off with a 60-second TV spot introducing the three characters on 15 October.

So far, the site has had more than three million hits in the first fortnight of activity. And, not surprisingly, Anna, who is a model based in London, Jade from Shanghai and Luca in LA already have hundreds of friends each on Facebook.

Supporting the online campaign are weekly TV ads, which update the three storylines, 32 press and poster ads, radio spots and 52 viral teasers to draw more viewers to the main website.

Added to this, Wieden & Kennedy has created a microsite, which is translated into ten languages, a dotMobi version of the website, banners and widgets, and has built interactive partnerships with Facebook, Yahoo! and Diesel. On the main site, each character has their own page, which features the Nokia 7610 in the centre of the screen, surrounded by text messages, voicemails and images, which you click on to listen or to read.

As the campaign continues, the interaction between the characters and users is set to become more active. This will involve live Q&As and publishing of the characters' phone numbers, while the series finale will see the characters meeting at a party in Paris, with users able to enter a competition to win an invite.

The campaign will also end with the microsite being opened up to the audience, who will be able to add and control their own content.

However, the issue of control is perhaps the campaign's main shortfall, with Nokia looking to keep a tight hold of content until the final act. "Clearly, they want people to comment and contribute, but you can't lose too much control because it is still a branded message," Neil Christie, the Wieden & Kennedy managing director, says.

"We were partly trying to launch and sell the handset. Partly to build preference among younger consumers for Nokia, and to communicate to that audience in the media they are accustomed to using."

Overall, it is certainly a bold idea with some very interesting uses of media. However, as the commentators suggest (see box), being bold may not be enough to engage a notoriously hard audience.

THE VERDICT

- Ella Fullagar, Web-savvy 15-year-old, avid MySpace and Bebo user

"The graphics at the beginning are really good; they are simple and grabbed my attention. But when you are actually on the site, on people's phones, you realise that you are going to have to spend quite a lot of time on it. It was really boring as you had to repeatedly click through the messages. Nobody is going to be bothered to click through everything. I don't think it would appeal too much to my age group because it is so time-consuming.

"It was a bit confusing and a little busy. After the graphics at the beginning, the three people's phones pop up all at once. There's too much for your eyes to take in.

"You'd only get interested in the characters if you spent loads of time clicking through the texts. Really, teenagers are self-obsessed; they don't care about anything other than themselves. Young people only care about their circle of friends. When they gossip, it is normally about people they know, who go to their school, or people who are well known.

"The main focus wasn't the actual phone. I didn't think it told you enough about the phone straight away or enough within the whole site: you had to look at the features section.

"It's a bit of a taboo to say you have a Nokia phone. When you think of Nokia, it's the first phone you ever got: it's chunky and has massive buttons. Teenagers don't want sturdy things, they want phones they can brag about that look good, like an iPhone or BlackBerry. They could have tried to advertise it as a prettier, newer phone, but they didn't."

- Mans Tesch, Digital strategy director, Fallon

"Wieden & Kennedy and Nokia should get credit for this ambitious effort to break new ground. That said, I have had a peek at the oh-so-happening life of Anna, the aspiring model. Considering the fact that we're both Swedish, quite recently moved to London, and we seem to spend our summers on the same island in the Baltic Sea, we do have a few things in common. Sadly, all I can think of when wading through the contents of her phone is an overpowering urge to run, fast, to an all-day traffic meeting. Yes, it is that tedious and uninspiring.

"An idea can be ever so innovative, from the perspective of how it uses digital media to convey its message, but if the story isn't as engaging as the next episode of Entourage, it's not going to work itself into the conversations of the people it tries so hard to please. The constant challenge for brands in this fragmented media landscape is to find ways to be relevant and interesting within the very digital context that is quickly becoming the primary space for communication and entertainment.

"The same rules apply now as they have in advertising for more than 40 years. To engage people, the technology can be innovative, but if the story is not fantastic, it is going to be flat.

"It is a pretty good use of the medium, but it could have been more fragmented in the same way that the online world is. Online work gets rewarded for encouraging people to explore and to discover for themselves. But here it stops quite early in the process of exploring."

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