Campaign: It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a man in possession of a good moustache must be either nauseatingly on-trend or possessed by aliens. Not familiar with moustache-aliens? Well, you will be soon, because this summer they are coming to an Internet-enabled device near you, courtesy of Intel and Toshiba. The two technology companies have partnered on a new social film collaboration entitled The Power Inside, orchestrated by San Francisco-based agency Pereira and O’Dell.
A succinct way to summarize the plot line of The Power Inside might be pretty damn bonkers, if you’ll excuse the technical terminology. In brief, an alien species called Uricks invade the earth, deviously disguised as moustaches (or in some cases, unibrows). The Uricks deviously attach themselves to your upper lips or eyebrows and then control your mind. Luckily for humankind, an unlikely hero named Neil discovers that he is the only person who can stop this invasion—with a little help from his friends. And, of course, to quote the press release: “The Intel-inspired Ultrabook™ devices by Toshiba play an important role in Neil’s journey of self-discovery.”
This will be the third year that Intel and Toshiba have partnered with award-winning directors to produce a film that pushes the concept of branded entertainment into ambitious new territory. Last year’s The Beauty Inside won a 2013 Daytime Emmy award for Outstanding New Approach to Daytime Programming and scooped up three Grand Prix Lions at Cannes (Film, Cyber and Branded Content). The Beauty Inside also had an impressive effect on business, with a 360 percent increase in sales of the Ultrabook following the campaign launch.
Like The Beauty Inside, this new project is driven by user-generated content, with people from around the world able to audition for a part in the film. Those wishing to join up with the dark forces of facial-hair can upload a photo from their computer to the Facebook page, where a moustache/unibrow is automatically added. Right-thinking people who want to save the world from these hirsute little alien invaders also can upload videos of themselves removing a moustache.
The trailer for The Power Inside was released in July, along with a global casting call. The first episode will be online on August 15.
FleishmanHillard’s McNeel Weighs in
John McNeel: It seems as though everyone is jumping on the branded-content bandwagon these days. Hardly a screen passes by without us needing to further refine our innate “ad alert instincts” to avoid getting sucked in by a camouflaged sales pitch.
As with the galloping advent of native advertising—which increasingly blurs the boundaries between editorial and advertising—branded content is usually something aspiring to be something it’s not: the infomercial as viral video, the ecommerce ploy as online game, destination marketing as epic travelogue.
For many agencies and their clients, branded content has become the surrogate for messaging palatability: adding a bit of honey to help the medicine go down. But brand too often takes precedence over content—and the storytelling, the craft, the engagement and the emotion get short shrift, making the product a pale simulacrum of what we would consider authentic content.
Yet, every now and again, a genuinely surprising and delightful piece of branded Content (yes, small b, capital C) comes along that transcends and defines what the genre should be or at least aspire to be. The Power Inside, from Intel and Toshiba, is one of those.
What makes this so compelling is the freewheeling, inspired lunacy with which the creators approached the story: Humans possessed by aliens in the shape of moustaches, Harvey Keitel as the flinty leader of the unwilling band of geeky brothers, vintage Porsches and coconut water, all combined in an ersatz film trailer that is decidedly better than most films that come out of Hollywood these days.
That the narrative has only the most tenuous (but nonetheless real) connection to the brand matter at hand—Toshiba laptops and Intel chips—is really beside the point. You want to watch because it’s good. Do enough brands actually aspire to make their content “good”?
Clearly, this enticing trailer is just a taste of things to come: a “social” adventure that is likely to set the bar higher in terms of how brands should truly connect with their audiences. (And yes, let’s really think of them as an “audience”—not a “target” or “a consumer” or “next month’s sales objective.”)
The Power Inside has created a space worth watching.