25 May 2016
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Qualcomm enlists Hollywood heavyweights to create short film

Oscar winner and Birdman screenwriter Armando Bo teamed with Ogilvy and mobile technology company Qualcomm, to create a short film and it's riveting.

'Lifeline' is a 30-minute online thriller starring Chinese stars Wang Leehom and Joan Chen, as well as American actress Olivia Munn.  

The film follows a man who wakes up to find his girlfriend missing and using her smartphone he embarks on a journey to find her.

The film was written and directed by Bo, with production company Anonymous Content, the company behind The Revenant, Spotlight, and True Detective. However, the concept was conceived by Ogilvy & Mather North America.

The aim is to “help showcase the behind-the-scenes hero of your mobile experience” and generate awareness of Qualcomm’s technology, particularly the Snapdragon processor, which powers smartphones.

The film’s narrative helps to showcase key Qualcomm features including security, photo and video capture, connectivity and battery life and charging.

The film takes place in Shanghai and is 70% Mandarin and 30% English. The film is targeting audiences in China, United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, and India.

Tim McDonough, senior vice president of global marketing at Qualcomm, told Fast Company Co.Create, “The business challenge we have and that we really threw at Ogilvy was that we're in just about every smartphone that's out there, but we're not broadly known to be in there. We wanted mass market consumers to know that when there is Qualcomm technology—a Snapdragon processor—inside, that the phone's going to be better."

The film is supported by a mini-documentary film called Inside Lifeline.

All the films are posted on YouTube and iQIYI in China and are supported through social media.

This is certainly an ambitious project for a microprocessor technology company. The challenge for them will always be explaining the technology is in the phone, and not the phone but Qualcomm.

No doubt this project took inspiration from the success Intel has experienced by creating films and online series to generate awareness of its own microprocessors as well as cementing its Inside positioning.

As with all great branded entertainment projects, the key to success lies in having the budget to hire exceptional talent to create great quality content, and having a client that can step back and allow the content to be entertainment and not advertising.

On both of those criteria, this project is a masterful success.

Qualcomm said the investment was important to ensure the brand was viewed as innovative.

McDonough said, “If you look at the cost of building a chip, it can be in the hundreds of millions of dollars or more. For most companies, whether it's building out a factory or creating a new formula, those are massive, massive investments. The spend in marketing in comparison is quite small in terms of what it takes to try something new and test it. Innovative product companies also ought to have marketing that's as innovative as what they build."

Another key factor for the project was attracting such high-quality talent. Bo told Co.Create he was interested in the project because of the unique format but especially because everyone involved was committed to creating a genuine thriller and not an ad. 

"I've been saying for years, 'Why don’t more brands do things like this?' People are already aware of commercials. This kind of project allows you to say what you need to say but in a subtle way—telling a story and doing something that is a lot more interesting."

The film does a great job of integrating the phone and its features into the story in a way that never seems clunky or out of place. In fact, the phone is something of a central character helping to propel the story along.

The story is intriguing and mysterious and the viewer is taken along for the ride, never quite knowing what is coming or where the story is going. It is a genuinely entertaining film, albeit a slightly hard to follow one.

The production values are superb and everything about this film is genuinely entertaining. It is a well made 

The strategy is to create a unique and innovative film to generate awareness of the brand and its key features and this film achieves this in spades. 

The only issue is how much the viewer really understands that Qualcomm is not s much the phone but the processor inside. Given this is the challenge driving the whole project, I am really not sure this film achieves this.

It does, however, generate awareness of the brand and help to position it as an innovative phone technology brand, which is a huge leap forward for a brand that most people had probably never heard of. If this long-term strategy is to generate greater understanding that Qualcomm power smartphones and tablets then this is a very strong opening shot. 

This project is ambitious and impressive making the brand one to watch. 


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