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By Laurie Fullerton, Freelance Writer

August 15, 2016 | 4 min read

With reality TV usurping so much of what is great about scripted television, and with ad blocking creating newer challenges for brands, the New York Times reports today that a short film, a thriller, entitled "Lifeline" is in fact an online advertisement for the mobile technology company Qualcomm and good news for working actors.

“Lifeline” was directed by Academy Award winner Armando Bo about a man’s search for his missing girlfriend according to the Times article. The film is set in Shanghai with a plot that might appeal more to James Bond fans than those interested in Qualcomm's smartphone processor the Snapdragon 820 chip set. But, desperate times call for desperate measures and with more and more consumers skipping or blocking ads when streaming shows or browsing websites, the article suggests that the film is a way to deliver a brand message while offering a quality story of some length and depth - showcasing good film making and good films.

It is also reported that whereas companies have tried to break out of the 30- and 60-second ad model, it has become easier to present high-quality videos online — and as top directors and actors have shown a willingness to be involved — these efforts have become more sophisticated.

The goal of “Lifeline” and similar ads is “to make something you want to see — and the holy grail is if people seek you out,” said Teddy Lynn, chief creative officer for content and social at Ogilvy & Mather, which produced the film. “This is a piece of entertainment that can compete in a very crowded marketplace.”

“Lifeline” was released in May and pushed out on multiple social media channels in the United States and China, the article states. “Inside Lifeline,” a nine-minute behind-the-scenes look at the film, is also available on the “Lifeline” website. It emphasizes the importance of the cellphone to the action in the film and the phone’s various features the film hopes to highlight, like its long battery life and improved photo capability.

In many ways, “Lifeline” is just an extension of product placement and show sponsorship by advertisers that goes back to the early days of radio and television, said Lou Aversano, chief executive of Ogilvy & Mather NY.

“I think we continue to push, not just in terms of length, but in terms of the line between entertainment and brand message,” he said.

The article also notes that many companies are looking for ways to promote their brand through longer storytelling, such as Johnnie Walker, Nike and Prada. It is an impulse that dates to at least 2001 or 2002, when a series of eight 10-minute films for BMW starring Clive Owen appeared online, said the Times.

“That was at the time the internet was still dial-up,” said Steve Golin, founder and chief executive of Anonymous Content, a multimedia development company that produced the BMW ads and “Lifeline.” “It would take all night to download.”

“Lifeline,” which stars Ms. Munn, Leehom Wang and Joan Chen, is directed by Armando Bo, who won an Oscar for best original screenplay for “Birdman” in 2015.

The Times article reports that the film has attracted 20 million views. There have been an additional 100 million combined views of the film’s trailers and the behind-the-scenes video, Mr. Lynn said. Eighty percent of the views came from China, which was the primary market. The dialogue is 70 percent in Chinese and 30 percent in English, the article notes.

Mr. Lynn said Qualcomm would not disclose the cost of the ad, but noted that with less money needed to buy time on television, more was available for the production.

“You can create content that is compelling and you don’t have to spend money to place it on TV,” said Mr. Golin, whose company has been involved with movies like “Spotlight” and “The Revenant” and TV shows like “Mr. Robot.” “We think this is the direction advertising is headed. As long as sports exists, we will still do 30- and 60-second commercials, but with most other entertainment there is a lot of resistance to watching bread-and-butter advertising.”

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