In August, Intel and Toshiba launched "The Power Inside," an episodic social film that imagines aliens have invaded Earth in the form of mustaches and uni-brows that attach to humans. Upon discovering that he is the only man who can save the world, Neil (played by Craig Roberts) assembles a team to take on the aliens. They are aided, of course, by technologies like Intel's Ultrabook laptop and various Toshiba devices.
Directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon ("Blades of Glory"), the campy comedy also stars Harvey Keitel, Analeigh Tipton, Reid Ewing, Zack Pearlman, and some lucky viewers.
That's right, what makes this film social is that viewers are asked to participate. They can both shape the direction of the film and audition for a role in it.
The brands' joint campaign, "The Power Inside," helped them capture the No.4 and No.5 spots on this month's iMedia Brands in Video chart. Both Intel and Toshiba had a True Reach in excess of 31 million for the month of August. But the campaign has now amassed a True Reach of more than 51 million views.
"The Power Inside" is part of Intel and Toshiba's Inside Film series, which was developed with the brands' agency Pereira & O'Dell three years ago. Back then, there was no such thing as a "social film," so the experiment was a big risk and counted on the participation of viewers to find success.
There is a lot of content floating around the web. Consumers are overwhelmed with choices. Every day, brands are producing videos that get little traction. But Intel and Toshiba have now hit the viral jackpot not once, not twice, but three times using this social film formula.
So how do Intel and Toshiba have continued success with Inside Films, while other brands struggle to repeat the success of a viral hit (or even find success at all)?
Securing that first viral hit
The first step in having repeat success in digital video is creating that first hit. Digital videos that take off tend to create some kind of emotional connection with the viewer, and they tend to be newsworthy. Intel and Toshiba did both with their first social film.
When they launched "The Inside Experience" in 2011, it was groundbreaking. A social film was an entirely new concept, something that audiences hadn't experienced before. People weren't using the term branded content too often at the time, but that's what it was.
Starring Emmy Rossum as a woman trapped in a room with a Toshiba laptop as her only source of communication with the outside world, the thriller also drew people in and captured their emotions like any good Hollywood movie. It really played out more like a film than any advertisement that viewers were used to seeing.
The eight episode series engaged viewers because it allowed them to affect the story by interacting with it. The campaign made viewers the stars of the campaign as much as Emmy Rossum. This caught the attention of social media users, as well as members of the media who reported on it and made it -- literally -- newsworthy. In the end, the first campaign garnered a True Reach of 7.2 million views.
Repeating the success of a viral campaign can be difficult, but the key to doing it is to make sure that the sequel isn't just replicating the first campaign. Brands have to find a way to evolve and build on the storyline that they have created. Intel and Toshiba accomplished this with their second social film, "The Beauty Inside."
Intel and Toshiba were smart in that they didn't just create campaign; they created a campaign platform. No matter the subject matter or the stars involved, their Inside Films always let the audience interaction lead the plot, and they are produced by Hollywood names that help to create a real cinematic experience.
Where the first film was a kind of thriller, "The Beauty Inside" used the same platform, but employed a romantic storyline. Directed by Sundance-winning director Drake Doremus and starring Topher Grace and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, it followed Alex, a young man who wakes up every day with a new physical appearance. His constantly changing appearance allowed for viewers to audition for the role of Alex in the film series.
The results of the second campaign were more impressive than the first. "The Beauty Inside" garnered a True Reach of more than 55 million views, it won a Daytime Emmy, and it was awarded three Grand Prix awards at Cannes this year.
The success of that campaign helped to prime viewers for the third installment, "The Power Inside," that evolved the Inside story by creating a kooky alien-invasion comedy. And it's easy to see how Intel and Toshiba can continue to evolve this story by using new film genres.
But it wasn't just creating a platform that ensured the success of Intel and Toshiba's Inside Films. It is the way that they constructed the campaign platform that has allowed it to produce hit after hit.
First, they built engagement into their campaign platform. As a social film, the brands have changed the relationship between the creator and the audience. By allowing the audience power over the plot of the film, and the chance to be in it, they are now part of the production process.
Involving the audience in the process makes them actively engaged participants. And engaged participants, more often than not, will advocate for the campaign and the brands, promoting it online. So it's really as if the brands have found a way to build earned media into their campaign structure.
Second, the brands really focused on making these campaigns legitimate films. They emphasize storyline, not product, and they've employed Hollywood directors and stars to ensure that's where the focus stays.
When Intel and Toshiba products are used, they are woven into the plot in authentic way. They never distract from the plot. And it's focusing on creating content, and not the products, that's the difference between success and failure in this kind of medium.
Intel and Toshiba have mastered the art of engaging viewers with true branded content. And it's not just the view counts that prove it. Even other brands have taken note and want in on the action.
Four other brands -- Spotify, Skype, Fossil watches, and Skullcandy -- all have product placement in the "The Power Inside," alongside Intel and Toshiba. This development both legitimizes the Inside Films as real, honest-to-goodness content and sets us up for some very interesting developments in the yet-to-be-realized fourth series.
Mallory Russell is content editor at Visible Measures.
iMedia's Top 10 Brands in Video chart, powered by Visible Measures, focuses on aggregated brand view counts across related social video ad campaigns. Each brand and campaign is measured on a True Reach basis, which includes viewership of both brand-syndicated and audience-driven video clips. The data are compiled using the patented Visible Measures platform, a constantly growing repository of analytic data on close to 400 million videos tracked across more than 300 online video destinations.
Note: This analysis does not include Visible Measures' paid-placement (e.g., overlays; pre-, mid-, and post-roll) performance data or video views on private sites. This chart does not include movie trailers, video game campaigns, TV show, or media network promotions. View counts are incremental by month.
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