Intel and Toshiba Social Video Ads Earn 55M Views – With Fans Playing A Starring Role

“An online coming-of-age love story” formed the basis for a recent social video campaign by Toshiba and Intel – with the main character being played by 76 different fans of the brand.  The six week web series “The Beauty Inside” featured a lead character, Alex, who searches for love while waking up each day in a different body, reports ClickZ.  How did this wacky concept end up earning 55 million views and holding strong as the top viral video ad (according to Visibile Measures) for three weeks in August?

 The Beauty Inside: Toshiba, Intel create social video ads

To promote Intel software and Toshiba’s Portégé Ultrabook, the companies turned to agency Pereira & O’Dell for a fresh online ad concept.  Agency co-founder PJ Pereira noted that among online ads “what you don’t see very much is love” – and so the agency decided to get “romantic” while targeting the 18-34 year-old demographic.

The basic premise of the fan-centric social film series – looking for love, but in a totally new body each day – conveniently allowed multiple fans to play the main character role.  The series’ Facebook page describes the project as “Hollywood’s first film that gives the audience a chance to play the lead role.”

More than 4,000 people auditioned to portray Alex, recording themselves reading a script via a Facebook app.  Participants then asked friends to “like” their audition videos, which both helped their chances of being chosen and created more buzz for the film series. Auditions were held until the day before the last episode.  The director selected 26 people to appear in the web series, and an additional 50 were featured on “The Beauty Inside” Facebook page via photos and videos.

The six weekly episodes ran from August 16 – September 20th.  Both the series and the auditions were promoted by paid digital ads on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter from mid-July through September, as well as on tech, entertainment, gaming and pop culture media. Check out the series trailer below:

How effective was the series for Intel and Toshiba? The series title matches the “Intel Inside” tag, and the series’ Facebook page has a tab for “Alex’s Ultrabook” featuring product information about the new Ultrabook.  However, direct sales were not the aim of the project; changing brand perception was the real goal.  Pereira told ClickZ, “The goal was not to sell units, but to increase favorability about the two brands among younger consumers.”

The numbers speak for themselves:

  • 55 million views by early October
  • nearly 95,000 Facebook “likes”
  • the top viral video ad (via Visible Measures) for 3 weeks in August

Each episode was received a little differently: “The first film got more comments but the second film got more shares and a greater number of profound conversations,” Pereira told ClickZ. “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.”  The viewing audience was equally divided among men and women.

Our favorite fun campaign fact? ‘Alex’ posted comments on Facebook related to the plot, and apparently quite a few fans – despite the character being fictional – reached out to him for relationship advice over the course of the series.

This was not Toshiba and Intel’s first attempt at social film.  ClickZ reports that back in summer 2011, Pereira & O’Dell created a “dark thriller” about a desperate young woman trapped in a room with only her Toshiba laptop.  The episodes ran for 11 days, and also encouraged participation by asking the audience to send ideas on how she could escape. The woman reacted to audience input in realtime, and viewers were hooked: the series earned 15 million views in the US and 35 million in China.

Online video ads might be the norm these days, but it’s not often you get the chance to see yourself – or your friend – featured in one.  Kudos to Intel and Toshiba for finding a creative way for fans to not only engage with the product, but also to advertise the brands to their own social network by participating in the campaign.