T-Mobile Breaks Sidekick Campaign

LOS ANGELES T-Mobile’s multimillion-dollar spokeswoman Catherine Zeta- Jones gets upstaged by a cartoon in Publicis in the West’s new work for the telco. The cable TV and online effort for the Bellevue, Wash.-based client features Japanese anime touting an all-in-one wireless device that works more like a personal digital assistant than a cell phone.

The effort is for T-Mobile’s color-screen Sidekick, which features Web browsing, e-mail, AOL instant messaging, phone and digital imaging capabilities.

The campaign is the brainchild of Publicis interactive art director Lazaro Cangas. Working with Itsuro Kawasaki, director of the cult 1996 cyberpunk anime film Ghost in the Shell, making his American commercial-directing debut, and Production I.G. in Tokyo, the Seattle shop developed seven three-and-a-half minute Webisodes starring an action hero it created called Johnny Chase.

Chase is an ex-hacker who has been paid by the government never to touch a computer again. He is on the run from some “bad guys” and the feds, who are after him for violating their agreement. He uses his Sidekick to get himself and the people he cares about out of danger.

Two 30-second TV spots were pulled from the Webisodes. One has Chase eluding his pursuers by hopping onto a helicopter propeller. He receives messages from his girlfriend, who asks to meet him at Club Zero. In the second spot, he arrives at the club, talks with the bouncer in Russian, and is accosted by some more bad guys. There is also a Web site, www.johnnychase.com, which allows consumers to buy the product, play games and hang out with Johnny, among other things. Zeta-Jones appears only briefly in the campaign, as an animated form on a billboard in one spot.

Spending on the Sidekick campaign was undisclosed.