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Nokia's "It's Your Life in There" Campaign: Jill


By Brendan I. Koerner

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The Pitch A blond with an upturned nose and childbearing hips sits atop her bed, discussing her cellphone-centric breakup ritual. Upon ending it with some fellow, she exorcises the relationship demons by deleting the man's information from her handset—his photos, his e-mails, and, finally, the dude's math. "David who?" she laughs at the camera, though you get the impression that she's less than delighted about the romance's end—perhaps David was stepping out with one of his round-the-way girls? Or perhaps he merely tired of that whiny voice and pre-momsy fashion sense? Judge for yourself by checking out the Jill ad on Nokia's "It's Your Life in There" site, much-advertised in Blogland in recent weeks.

Rip-Off Of There's a zillion-and-one "Average Jane Speaks the Truth" candidates to choose from here. I instantly thought of those recent British Petroleum commercials in which folks talk about their concerns that the Earth will turn into a gigantic fireball, thanks to our pals in the energy industry—the Nokia ads, including the Jill spot, have that same feel, except they tilt toward humor instead of horror. As for Jill herself, she totally reminds me of this one girl from high school whose high-pitched giggle could peel paint—and who also put a mean shot, thanks to her gargantuan stature.

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The Spin Nokia wants folks to get comfortable with using their phones for more than just calling and texting. The company has been pretty vocal about envisioning handsets as replacements not just for PCs, but for PDAs—"What we are targeting is making the Nokia device the user interface of your life," Nokia research bigwig Jyri Huopaniemi said at the company's annual press briefing in June. The first step is getting users accustomed to managing data on their phones; once we've all got that part down pat, then we'll feel okay about paying for groceries and subway rides with 'em (as is already happening with NFC-enabled phones in some Japanese cities).

Counterspin No one can accuse the spot's creator, ad agency darkGrey, of going the obvious route by, y'know, making the product look cool. Jill grates on the nerves, primarily because she's an obvious nutcase. So, was the intention to make us laugh? Perhaps, and the commercial succeeds in that regard. But to what end? No one walks away from their Jill encounter knowing anything more about Nokia's handsets, and how they might be superior to those offered by the competition. Nor does Jill convince me that I should become ever more reliant on my cellphone—if doing so leads me to a life of thinly veiled self-hatred and overly pronounced self-tanning, then I'll pass, thank you very much.

Takeaway Nokia has obviously given careful thought to the next step in the cellphone's evolution. But can they really drive consumers to change their behavior by assaulting them with the sniveling of a Sex in the City wannabe? They get points for creativity, but for actually pushing the ball forward on handset pervasiveness? Not so much. Never thought I'd say this, but I'd have much preferred a stock glamfest. You want me to integrate my Nokia more deeply into my life? Show me pretty girls in hoodies, and throw some Ludacris on the soundtrack. Yes, I'm shallow, but I'll bet I'm part of the not-so-silent majority in this case.

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Hype-O-Meter 3 (out of 10); Nokia's overall strategy seems correct, but ixnay on the emotional cripple with the bejunked trunk.

Brendan I. Koerner is a contributing editor at Wired and a columnist for both the New York Times and Slate. His Hype Sheet column appears every other Wednesday on Gizmodo.

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