‘The Power Inside’ is the third social film in a series created by Pereria & O’Dell for Toshiba and Intel. The series, which launched in 2011 with the film ‘Inside’, has been proclaimed as ‘groundbreaking’ by Fast Company and won multiple awards.
This third installment launched August 15, 2013 with a six episode web series featuring a strong ensemble cast including Harvey Keitel. The campaign was aimed at tech-savvy MillenTrnials and was hoping to promote Toshiba laptops that housed the Intel Core 15 Processor. Campaign assets included six ten minute webisodes featured on a sleek website, an active Facebook page, a Twitter feed and a YouTube channel.
Truly a Hero’s Journey
The six film shorts in the series closely follow Campbell’s hero’s journey (Campbell, J. 2008). The story starts with a typical ‘everyman’, Neil, who is in a dead-end job and hasn’t done anything with his life. Immediately you LOVE this guy, as he’s set-up as a misfit and underdog. He doesn’t have the girl, he doesn’t have the cool job at the hipster coffee shop, he’s very ordinary. He then gets the call to adventure, as he’s been selected as the ONLY person who can save the world from Uricks. Uricks are alien creatures that have invaded the planet in the form of mustaches and unibrows that attache to their victims faces. The mentor and guardian is played astutely by Harvey Keitel and is a blade wielding barber who can neutralize the enemy.
Our hero has to make the ultimate sacrifice by giving his life to feed the alien queen and thus hold off total invasion for another 30 years. Neil is tested along the way but ultimately goes head to head with our antagonist, the alien queen. He, of course, prevails with the help of technology provided by Intel and Toshiba and get’s the girl.
The narrative draws on the hero archetype and puts our protagonist in a position where he has to face his fears and summon up all his courage to defeat conflicting forces. As Mark and Pearson outline, the consumer who can relate to the hero archetype is motivated by risk and mastery as opposed to stability (Mark, M., Pearson C., 2001). The viewer’s inner struggle with feelings of intellectuality, impotence and self-doubt can be played out by watching Neil successfully battle his own demons. During the final ordeal, the alien queen poses as Neil’s alter-ego berating himself for not doing anything with his life. In this way, the narrative creatively taps into the consumer’s deeper emotional needs and offers a Toshiba laptop as the bridge to a more effective and powerful existence.
One unique element that made this campaign noteworthy was the innovative way the creators approached audience participation. Prior to the launch of the first episode, tweets were posted asking viewers to choose sides and audition for roles in the web series. One of the major calls-to-action on the Facebook page invited viewers to ‘Join The Fight’ and upload an audition video. The film creators would then select fans to participate as extras or use their footage in the next episode. In this way, the campaign supported what Don Norman has hailed as the NEW transmedia – co-development, co-creation and co-ownership (Norman, D., N.D). By allowing fans to upload their own videos, the campaign was empowering viewers to play the role of creator and thereby gave them a sense of ownership over the outcome.
Apart from the short films, The Power Inside campaign also used Twitter and Facebook to help complete the transmedia experience. Twitter was underused and didn’t add anything new to the storyline. Tweets were simply pointing viewers to new episodes along with the hashtag #moustachealiens. The Facebook page, on the other hand, was used creatively to highlight additional assets that weren’t seen in the original short films. This Facebook strategy paid-off garnering almost 200,000 Facebook ‘likers’ while Twitter had recruited only 7,500 followers.
In her guide to transmedia storytelling, Andrea Phillips warns creators that content HAS to serve a creative purpose and further the narrative in some way. She outlines four primary creative purposes for transmedia content: 1) Worldbuliding 2) Characterization 3) Backstory and exposition and 4) Native transmedia experiences (Phillips, A. 2012).
The Power Inside Facebook page included unique content that helped serve these creative purposes. There were several video clips that were recorded by Neil’s friend, Ari, presumably on his slick Toshiba laptop. The clips contain good-bye messages from our hero and help to further build out his character, making him multidimensional.
There are also assets that help with worldbuilding, items that are mentioned in the short films are displayed on the Facebook page. Evidence that the story world is real and making Facebook fans feel like they are ‘IN’ the story. Early in the first episode, there’s a scene of Neil’s friend Ari posting an embarrassing photo to Facebook. Of course, that photo has been posted on the campaigns Facebook page in conjunction with the launch of the film. The campaign went a step further than uploading video’s and photos, they also created letter’s and documents that provide additional exposition and back story. The creative team delivering these assets did a great job making them look authentic.
Ultimately this campaign kept my interest through a series of six films. The narrative structure, additive content and crowd-sourced video may have enhanced this campaigns effectiveness but for me – it was all about the entertainment value of the films. Product placement was kept to a minimum and viewers don’t even see the Intel and Toshiba logo until episode five.
The writing and acting was outstanding and I was genuinely entertained, laughing out loud at least once per episode. I appreciated the fact that the creators wouldn’t have ordinarily had the funds to produce this work without the help from Toshiba and Intel. This type of entertainment AS marketing is being hailed as the only way to engage an increasingly jaded consumer. It definitely beats those annoying 60 second spots that we all ‘fast forward’ during our favorite TV shows.
Campbell, J. (2008). The hero with a thousand faces (Vol. 17). New World Library.
Fera, R.A. (2013). Intel and Toshiba Return With Third Social Film, “The Power Inside” And Harvey Keitel. http://www.fastcocreate.com: http://www.fastcocreate.com/1683459/intel-and-toshiba-return-with-third-social-film-the-power-inside-and-harvey-keitel
Mark, Margaret, & Pearson, Carol S. (2001). The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes. New York: McGraw Hill. Part I: Primal Assets: A System for the Management of Meaning pp. 1-47 (46 pages).
Norman, Donald. (n.d.). The Transmedia Design Challenge: Co-Creation. from Http://jnd.org/dn.mss/the_transmedia_design_challenge_co-creation.html
Phillips, A. (2012). A Creator’s Guide to Transmedia Storytelling, Section II, pp. 41-93 (52 pages)
Online Hero’s Journey resource – http://www.thewritersjourney.com/hero%27s_journey.htm