The hunt for an elusive South American flower is at the heart of the latest addition to the Peacock streaming service, but the creators of the new show aren’t from the typical Hollywood studio.
“Unlocked,” a short film that debuts Friday on the NBCUniversal broadband outlet, is the creation of tech player HP Inc. and the agency Giant Spoon. The mini-movie tells the story of data scientists hoping to track down a rare plant that might just offer a cure to a mysterious neurological disease that ails the world, but it might solve some other problems as well, like how to get ad messages in front of consumers who are increasingly accustomed to avoid such things when they hunker down for a new bingeworthy session.
The mission in the film is critical, but so too is the one mentioned above. “Streaming continues to grow in terms of audience,” says Laura Correnti, a partner at Giant Spoon. “With regard to content, we are seeing more and more media moments move to streaming.”
To make “Unlocked” more interesting to the public, the agency and its client even went so far to hire Laura Deeley, a writer who has worked on Netflix’s “The Crown” and “Ozark,” and Jonathan Pearson, a director who has worked in commercials but also the British series “Run.” Visitors to Peacock will find “Unlocked” being promoted on the main screen when they arrive at the site, among the titles in the “Just Added” section, as well as in tiers of selections devoted to “mystery” and “thrillers,” says Correnti, noting that HP has also purchased commercial time to run trailers directing viewers to find the movie.
Many big marketers have tried their hand at making entertaining vignettes that offer cinematic storylines while promoting products and services. BMW gained traction in 2000 and 2001 by launching a short series of films starring Clive Owen driving its vehicles. HP did something similar in 2017 with a web series called “The Wolf,” which starred Christian Slater playing what was billed as a “charmingly sinister hacker” in an effort to spotlight HP’s security technology.
In the era of streaming, however, there’s some thought that advertiser-backed films may fill a deep need for new content — and, potentially, get a message in front of a key consumer who might otherwise not consider watching it.
“Unlocked” is meant to be “a cinematic, epic international story of how a rag-tag team of data scientists would use data to unlock great mysteries of the world,” says Jonathan Haber, co-founder of Giant Spoon. But it’s also expected to reach consumers who make decisions about using technology at corporations, notes Erin Mott, who oversees global marketing for HP’s advanced compute and solutions division, which makes Z by HP, a suite of high-performance workstation laptops, desktops and displays for executives who work with data and use the electronics for high-level analysis.
“These folks are natural born problem solvers at their very heart. These people love to figure things out and they do it using an enormous amount of data and then make sense of it,” says Mott. “It’s such a driving force behind so many company decisions these days,”
As part of the experience, Z by HP offers data scientists the chance to solve four data different data challenges related to the film. These can be found at hp.com/unlocked, where people can take part in a sweepstakes where participants have the chance to win ZBook Studio laptops and a grand prize, a trip to the Kaggle Days X Z by HP World Championship in Barcelona, Spain.
NBCU has made advertising an essential part of Peacock, but it only shows five minutes of commercials per hour and has devised a number of formats that aim to make the ads less intrusive. “When it comes to creating the ad-supported streaming service of the future, our north star is identifying creative partnership opportunities that are great for marketers and for viewers,” says Laura Molen, president of NBCUniversal advertising and partnerships, in a statement. “We’re excited for audiences to experience the interactive storytelling of ‘Unlocked’ and connect with the HP brand in a new way.”