News & Views

Intel, Toshiba / The Power Inside

by Contagious Team

Contagious interviews award-winning directors behind Intel's latest branded content initiative

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man in possession of a good moustache must be either nauseatingly on-trend or possessed by aliens. Not familiar with moustache aliens? Well, you will be soon, because this summer they are coming to an internet-enabled device near you, courtesy of Intel and Toshiba. The two technology companies have partnered on a new social film collaboration entitled The Power Inside, orchestrated once again by San Francisco-based agency Pereira and O'Dell.

The best way to describe the plot line of The Power Inside is, if you'll excuse the technical terminology, 'pretty damn bonkers'. In brief, an alien species called Uricks invade the earth, deviously disguised as moustaches (or unibrows). The Uricks attach themselves to your upper lips or eyebrows and control your mind. This is not a pleasant experience. Luckily for humankind, an unlikely hero called Neil discovers that he is the only person who can stop this invasion -- with a little help from his friends. And, of course, to quote the press release: 'Intel-inspired Ultrabook™ devices by Toshiba play an important role in Neil's journey of self-discovery.' 

This will be the third year that Intel and Toshiba have partnered with award-winning directors to produce a film that pushes the concept of branded entertainment into ambitious new territory. Last year's The Beauty Inside won a 2013 Daytime Emmy award for Outstanding New Approach to Daytime Programming and scooped three Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions festival (Film, Cyber, Branded Content). It also had an impressive effect on business, with a 360% increase in sales of the Ultrabook following the campaign launch. 

Like The Beauty Inside, this new project is driven by user-generated content, with people from around the world able to audition for a part in the film. Those wishing to join up with the dark forces of facial-hair can upload a photo from their computer to the Facebook Page, where a mustache/unibrow is automatically added. Right-thinking people who want to save the world from the hirsute alien invaders can also upload videos of themselves removing a moustache. 

The trailer 
for The Power Inside was released on Thursday, along with a global casting call. The first episode will be online on August 15. 

Contagious interviewed the award-winning directors Will Speck and Josh Gordon, ('Blades of Glory' and 'The Switch'), to find out more. 

Contagious: First things first, are either of you currently in possession of a moustache or a unibrow? 

Speck: Internally, but not externally. 
Gordon: I tend to look a little pervy with a mustache. 
Me: Don't we all! 
My inner voice: Hang on, I'm a girl, that was a weird thing to say. 

What did you think when you were first approached with the idea for this project? 

We started off a little skeptical. I mean, the idea was a movie about moustaches that turn into aliens. But then we started seeing so many guys with moustaches, there's been a resurgence of moustaches, and it got us thinking about this idea of something that is everywhere amongst us suddenly having a different use and we looked at it from a different perspective. So then we started to get more and more excited. 

What was it like working with brands on this? How much creative control did they give you? 

 Intel and Toshiba were amazing. They wanted it to be an organic piece and they were very light with their touch. In some ways we had more freedom than we've had in features and commercials. It was a great opportunity to make a new form of narrative content. 

What did you think of the previous Intel/Toshiba work? 

Speck: We thought it was great. That was a big selling point for us working on this project - their previous work - it did a really good job blending narrative with participation elements and treating the product as a very natural part of the story. When we saw those two films we felt like these guys have taste and a perspective. That's what you always want to do: make sure that the people you are getting into a creative process with have done something that encourages you to believe in them as collaborators. 

What lessons did you take away from seeing the previous content? 

Gordon: I think these live in their own space. They're not quite television, they're not quite movies. They're sort of a new format. They're five, six minutes long and they have to work as individual webisodes and then they have to work as a complete story together. There aren't a lot of examples of that out there. So watching the previous work, you just look at what you like and what you don't. It's a new format so you're just looking at what worked and what didn't. 

The alien moustaches are quite a change in direction from TBI -- how do you think TBI fans will react? 

Speck: What's kinda exciting is that Intel and Toshiba are swinging around different genres. And I think further down the line, if they continue this, you'll get a real sense of you'll never know what to expect. It can be lyrical and romantic or it can be thrilling and suspenseful or it can be comedic and science fiction. I think we hope that it lives in its own place. The thing that we hope unifies the two is the attention to detail and the idea of storytelling and that kind of narrative experience. But it's definitely a big departure. 

What was it like integrating the brand into the content? Did it ever feel forced? 

Gordon: That was the whole goal from the beginning from Intel and Toshiba - they absolutely did not want it to feel forced because they think that can have a negative impact on the narrative experience. So it was actually weird to have a client on set who kept saying 'no, no, pull back, that's too gratuitous, we actually want less [product].' So that was a refreshing experience. 

What's your yardstick for success? 

Speck: Really it's about people buying into two things at once, which is the genres that we tried to combine, the thriller as well as the comedy. And having people invest in the characters and buy that this is something that could actually happen in some universe. We're less concerned about hits and impressions than we are that there's a community that can be built around it. 

What do you think about branded content? 

Speck: It's exciting. It's a new opportunity for people to do creative work. It's an opportunity to make new narrative content in an environment where sometimes opportunities to tell stories are shrinking. 

Do you think that branded content has a bright future? 

Gordon: Absolutely. Even since we began this project we've been noticing an explosion of branded content. I think people are starting to really access the idea. We're going to see a lot more of it. There are going to be good versions of it and bad versions of it, like all good things. But I think the good versions have a real place in the narrative universe, and that's kinda exciting.