A social film from Toshiba and Intel
The Beauty Inside is a six episode web series in which the audience plays the lead role of Alex – a shape shifter who wakes up in a new body everyday and documents his identities in a Toshiba Ultrabook.
Peopel were cast alongside Hollywood stars and TV actors Topher Grace (That 70’s Show), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Final Destination 3) and Matthew Gray Gubler (Criminal Minds), and directed by Sundance acclaimed director Drake Doremus.
As the film’s tagline puts it:
“It’s Hollywood’s first social film that lets everyone in the audience play the lead role.”
How it works
More than 4,000 people across the global auditioned for the lead role of Alex. 26 people were cast in the web series, and an additional 50 were featured on The Beauty Inside Facebook page via photos and videos.
Power of Hollywood + Social media
The star power attracted people to the audition, and viewers to the final film. People then used social media to spread the word and to discuss the film in depth.
As Ella Riley-Adams wrote:
“This project seems like a solid combination of vital entertainment factors. “The Beauty Inside” features one familiar young celeb, one up-and-comer… Viewers can easily get involved and have input in the plotline when they audition, and they’ll then spread the news to their friends and followers. This may be an elaborate creation for some simple product placement, but a branded movie with both star power and shareability seems likely to succeed.”
Adweek blogger Tim Nudd pointed out that social media was key to engaging so many:
“A man wakes up as a different person every morning—and one day, against his better judgment, he falls in love. It’s an intriguing premise—not quite right for Hollywood, perhaps, where movies need one or two unchanging stars, but perfect for social media, where involving as many people as possible is the whole point.”
Why storytelling works for Intel & Toshiba
Storytelling helps Toshiba and Intel engage people, and generate interest and buzz around their products, a feat, marketers say, that is usually a challenge for non-Apple tech brands.
Todd Wasserman, business editor at Mashable, wrote:
“Since relatively few people are interested in discussing new hardware (unless it’s from Apple), the campaign broadens the discussion with a bit of branded entertainment.”
Adweek reader Wayne Wood too applauded the storytelling approach:
“This is one of the most brilliant approaches to marketing of a technical brand, without hitting the buyer over the head with geek speak. and its about getting inside the head. the human touch.”
Seamless and effective product placement
By writing the Toshiba Ultrabook into the script, the filmmakers ensure the product and its features are evident, and that it doesn’t call attention away from the core story. A beautiful example of product placement.
As blogger Ben said:
“Presented by Intel and Toshiba, the branding is evidently there, but subtle enough not to intrude on the experience or hinder the concept…”
Blogger Denise Fernandes noted the role of the laptop:
“The biggest challenge was how to identify Alex in each scene, but the agency found a subtle, product-friendly solution—he’s always the one with the Toshiba laptop.”
Ashraf Engineer, member of the MSLGROUP Insights Network commented on the effectiveness of the product placement:
“To me, this was a great way to get your target users involved in the message you want to send out and to display the versatility and utility of your product.”
Ben also pointed out the role of the product in the larger scheme of things:
“What the brands have done is clever. They’ve let the experience speak for itself and respected the fact that people are at the end of the product. Entertain those people, play to their emotions, and keep them gripped in a great story and half the battle is already won.”
Ultimately, the film is one big metaphor for the Intel tagline “Inside,” and succeeds in getting people talking about the “beauty inside,” and subconsciously connecting with the concept of “Inside.”
People on YouTube, such as Kathryn Fornier, discussed the deeper significance and ‘moral ‘ of the film:
“I believe that the reason why he stops changing and becomes the true Alex is because he has found someone to love him despite his physical appearance… She didn’t care if he was old, fat, ugly, a woman, or a man. Leah loved Alex. She loved “the beauty inside” of him. That’s it for me.”
On Tumblr, people shared quotes from the movie and blogged about their take on inner and outer beauty.
Even Steve Hall of Adrants was enthralled by the emotions brought up by the film:
“True love is blind. That’s the lesson here. But how many people actually experience true love? How many people could fall in love and live with a person that looks different each day?”
Nidhi Makhija, member of the MSLGROUP Insights Network commented on the connect to Intel Inside:
“When I shared the story with a fellow advertiser, he was unimpressed and asked ‘What’s the connection to Intel?’
Without even realizing I was echoing ‘Intel Inside,’ I replied, ‘It’s not about what you look like on the outside, it’s who are you within.’
Power of the story, and the lead character
At the end of the day, it was the interaction that attracted people, but the power of the story and the character Alex that kept people engaged for six weeks and hungry for more.
This comment from YouTube user AshleyNicoleTM is but one of hundreds:
“I’ll be sad that I will not hear anything more from Alex. He was truly such a beautiful person. I’m glad he found happiness. I’ll miss my Thursdays looking forward to hearing about more from him. However I’m glad he finally found his happy ending.”
As PJ Pereira, co-founder of the agency behind the film commented:
“What we’ve learned is that viewers will come for the innovation of a project like this, but they will stay for the story. The story matters a lot.”
A new kind of experience
By allowing people to co-create the story and to be part of the story, The Beauty Inside delivers a different kind of experience altogether. As blogger Denise Fernandez pointed out:
“One of the most fascinating aspects of the series is the fact that it’s Hollywood’s second ever “social film”, and the first one of its kind that offers everyone who has access to a webcam the chance to play the lead role, since Alex has no definite appearance.
…the entire social film experience gives viewers a sense of intimacy and belonging, something cinemas and television have never accomplished yet.”
Building a case for Immersive Storytelling
The Beauty Inside is the second social film from Intel and Toshiba, after launching the social thriller The Inside Experience in July 2011. The overwhelming positive reactions to both imply that people are ready for more integrated, immersive storytelling experiences.
Storyteller John Ford noted:
“Inside attracted a huge following, fans not only enjoyed the experience they begged for more, so the arrival of a second experience was always likely… [The Beauty Inside] concept lives and dies by the quality of the storytelling and the immersion of the users.”
Storyteller Howard Blumenthal believes immersive storytelling is the way of the future – and especially in the digital age:
“Today, the power of computing can provide spectacular realism and the promise of deeply interactive experience–in which the individual participant and the story framework become one.”
Research findings from consultancy Latitude too support the increasing popularity of immersive, and interactive, storytelling.
Other social approaches to storytelling
Other social films include Toshiba & Intel’s thriller The Inside Experience in which audiences help a woman escape a closed room, AT&T’s Away We Happened in which fans decide the course of the story, and Discovery and Ridley Scott’s Life in a Day which crowdsourced scenes from around the world.
(MSLGROUP’s People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform and approach helps organizations tap into people’s insights for innovation, storytelling and change. The People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform also enables our distinctive insights and foresight approach, which consists of four elements: organic conversation analysis, MSLGROUP’s own insight communities, client-specific insights communities, and ethnographic deep dives into these communities.
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