Nokia dazzled London and myself with a spectacular light show and cracking music, all to promote the Lumia 800 smartphone. The Millbank Tower, which sits on the Thames near the Houses of Parliament, became a giant projection screen with all 800 windows blacked out by vinyl. House musician Deadmau5 (pronounced deadmouse) played a short set accompanied by trippy visuals. We marvelled as the tower flexed, crumbled and dissolved into ten blinking eyes. It looked like a giant smartphone, doing amazing things.
Best of all, the half-hour show was free to all comers. Thousands of young people lined the north and south banks of the Thames for the show, buzzing in different languages, smoking and drinking in the streets. It was a festival atmosphere in central London, which Nokia surely intended. Deadmau5 makes the kind of music your mother might describe as “just noise, darling,” and a free show tends to summon students.
The performance reached great heights because Nokia is in deep trouble. In February Nokia leaked a memo in which the CEO starkly laid out the problems facing the company. Now known as the “burning platform” speech, the memo compared Nokia to a man standing on a burning oil platform debating whether to jump into the sea. You can read the entire text here. Nokia’s lost market share and has fallen behind its competitors. Android and Apple are the new centres of innovation so few developers create apps for Windows phones. The Lumia 800 is Nokia’s last hope to reposition itself in the global phone market. A tablet is planned for next year in direct competition with the iPad. If these devices fail, Nokia probably will too.
Never mind that the speakers on our side of the river cut off for a few minutes partway through Deadmau5’ performance, prompting boos and more than a few shouts of “Buy an iPhone!” and “Should’ve gone to Samsung!” Newspapers haven’t recorded the audience’s disapproval when the concert’s corporate undertones peeked through –like at the end of the show, when a spinning Lumia 800 appeared at the end. The concert was a key part of Nokia’s redemption. The show makes a great viral video and it’s easy to write about. The format of the show was entirely different, the first of its kind in London. It reflects Nokia’s attempts to change its game and build a new platform in the world of smartphones.
So far, the Lumia 800 has performed well enough. Reviews have been favourable, though not ecstatic and it’s too early to see whether the phone can save Nokia. On that note, need an innovative idea for a big event? Let us help, Brief the Exchange today.