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Nokia phone film: 'The Commuter' merges moviemaking with advertisement

Pamela Anderson arrives at the Commuter Premiere. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

With a blind ninja, a machine-gun-toting traffic cop, Pamela Anderson and "Slumdog Millionaire" star Dev Patel, "The Commuter" has all excitement and glitz of an action-packed Hollywood film.

Only it's not. It's a 7.5-minute advertisement for the Nokia N8 camera phone. The film has been part of an elaborate marketing plan that included a contest for fans to appear in the film, all to show off the capabilities of the new 12 megapixel camera. The entire shoot was filmed with the phone's camera.

The film is a fun, zany time-waster, but what makes it fascinating is that it's another example of a savvy marketer using the Internet to hawk its wares. The online arena has afforded advertisers a limitless playing field and allows marketers to take product placement a step further. When else would people choose to sit through a seven-minute commercial? By combining audience participation and technological innovation, it bets on the likelihood of becoming an online hit.

A few other smart online advertising examples are Google's musical experiment with Arcade Fire, "The Wilderness Downtown," which promoted the band's new album and Google Chrome and Edge Shaving Gel's #soirritating campaign, which showers Twitter complainers with gifts.

This trend blurs the line between entertainment and advertising. Is this a bad thing? Filmmakers can use the deep pockets of marketers to experiment in ways they would never be able to on their own. But it also creates compromises many viewers may not see at first glance. By decorating an ad campaign as a creative product, it does not let the consumer understand the art of manipulation the advertisement inherently brings.

Let me know what you think about the art of the online campaign.

By Melissa Bell  | October 28, 2010; 10:31 AM ET
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