Branded content is getting darn good, and fast. As we said before with more and more platforms looking for premium video, brands are stepping up to the plate and forking over dollars for great stories and great talent.
The latest? Dell and Intel debuted their latest social film titled “What Lives Inside,” exclusively on Hulu. Directed by two-time Oscar-winner Robert Stromberg (“Maleficent”) and starring Colin Hanks (TV’s “Fargo”), J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”) and Catherine O’Hara (the mom in Home Alone!!!) the story follows a son’s inner struggle when his father (a Jim Henson-esque Children’s TV Puppeteer) passes away. This isn’t the first time Dell and Intel have collaborated together on branded content. Inside Films has been one of the longest running branded content programs online, which included their massive social hit The Beauty Inside, which starred Topher Grace and was exclusive to Facebook.
After watching the first episode, it’s clear right away that this is a Dell and Intel produced video. The Hulu player has wrapped messaging surrounding the video, including a custom pre-roll video that calls out that products will be seen in the film, the films first line of text “Dell presents” and then there are about 10 product flashes throughout the 11 minutes.
Even new user interfaces are woven into the storyline, while I’ll save the spoilers (because you should watch the first episode) there’s one clip where he’s clearly swiping the Dell tablet, and later in that scene he’s swiping something (that’s not a phone) over and over repeatedly mimicking the same experience again that a user might have with a Dell tablet.
It’s not all forced positivity though, in one scene the best friend of Hanks’ character furiously slams Hanks’ Dell laptop shut and tells him to forget about work. In another, a Dell tablet is used as a giant flashlight, a hilarious nod to anyone who owns a mobile device today.
But while killer production, built-in distribution with Hulu, and star power are certainly some of the core components of what makes this awesome branded content, they didn’t stop there. Injecting a healthy dose of #CreatedWith DNA into the project, Stromberg invited the public to collaborate with him by submitting character sketches to complete the film. The winning drawings appear in the film and were handpicked by Stromberg and his team.
Not to be left to waste, all submissions are proudly displayed throughout the film’s website, and they’re pretty damn good. I’m talking fridge-worthy material from anywhere from 4 year olds to 40 year olds (and probably beyond). A blind liking system allows anyone to vote on photos and share with any social network. The sketches that were picked are called out with a banner, which is a nice touch now that the show is starting.
By giving potential audiences something like an opportunity to have their creative ideas integrated into a production like this, it makes the consumer more invested in that project. It primes them for viewership. Talk about genius.
Dell and Intel started accepting character sketches in January, that’s almost two months where people were waiting to see the fruits of their labor in a professional film.
And even if someone isn’t selected, when they catch a tweet about the film (or more likely, a promoted tweet that is served to them because you gave us their email when they submitted their entry) they’re likely to give it a look and see what sketches were picked over theirs.
Finally the title, “What Lives Inside,” is such a perfect name for the show as a copywriter you just smile. Not only is it a literal tie in with Intel’s core messaging (we’re what’s in your computer, Intel inside, etc) it’s also a great metaphor for what Dell tablets also really mean, not about the device itself, but the creativity and power it unlocks beneath the screen. A classic two-fer.
And while it’s cool to have an awesome movie title resonating with your products, what’s cooler is that by getting your fans involved in creating content, now you’re actually talking about “What lives inside” the hearts and minds of anyone enjoying technology today. “What lives inside” the viewer?
It’s inclusive, participatory, and community-building. The desire to want to be featured in a film like this to show off to your friends and feel accepted for your creativity is the hunger that the #CreatedWith approach feeds. It’s about love and belonging, even with our media, straight out of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.