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Nokia Music Downloads Hyped Via Documentary

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To introduce a new music service to its worldwide subscribers, Nokia is forsaking a traditional global ad campaign and opting instead for a 29-minute documentary film.

Called The World's Greatest Music Stores, the film, directed by Wim Wenders and starring David Bowie, will be posted on Nokia's www.musicrecommenders.com, as well as video-sharing sites such as YouTube. It will also be recut into shorter versions that will appear on video monitors in Nokia retail stores. In addition, the client might host special screenings and enter it into film festivals.

The service, which drives consumers to new music that can be downloaded on select Nokia phones, will be available first in the U.K. and Australia, and then will extend to other markets next year.

The World's Greatest will not be re-purposed for advertising. Nokia expects that the content itself will create buzz for the service, which is designed to generate sales of the company's music-capable Nseries phones.

Initially, Nokia had asked Lowe to produce a product video to be shown at a launch event. Lowe, in turn, pitched the film concept, arguing that Nokia positions itself as connecting people.

The film features record store managers worldwide who talk passionately about music. Different genres are represented by different cities (hip-hop in New York, jazz in Chicago, etc.). Bowie introduces each segment by reflecting on his experiences in each given city. He also reacts to some of what the managers say while watching them on tape from a studio.

"It has to be about these people," said Fernanda Romano, ecd at Interpublic Group's Lowe in New York. "The thing that connects them is music."

Nokia executives were not available at press time, but in an earlier statement, Tommi Mustonen, director of multimedia at Nokia, said of the music gurus: "We are able to make a wealth of knowledge, passion and foresight available on a global scale—something that has never before been attempted."

As part of the service, managers from some 40 independent record stores will suggest new music options in a dozen genres and select recommendations will be e-mailed to subscribers once a month.

For the film, Romano approached Wenders because of his ability to elicit the passion of "normal people" playing non-mainstream music in Buena Vista Social Club, the Oscar-nominated documentary about Cuban music. A London-based music marketing agency, Frukt, suggested Bowie because he's an icon who embraces new music and technology, said Romano.

Bowie, in turn, was interested because the project, although backed by Nokia, was decidedly non-commercial, Romano added. In fact, no Nokia phones appear in the film and the brand is only mentioned as the sponsor at the end of a roll of credits.

In addition to New York and Chicago, the project took Lowe to Berlin, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Brisbane, Australia. Nearly a dozen store managers were interviewed by Wenders, who worked off a list of about 30 questions that Romano wrote. Some of the subjects also are musicians, so Wenders filmed them performing as well.

The film, which was shot in high-definition, cost an estimated $2 million to produce.