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Phones

How Nokia is trying to get you to love it again

Commentary: What do you do when your brand name is well-known but your new phones aren't? Appeal to people's sense of humanity.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


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Who doesn't want a friend like this?

Nokia/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

In 1996, I sat in a meeting in Warsaw, Poland, as American ad execs presented what they called the phone of the future. 

It was a vast, expensive thing called Iridium. We texted each other during the meeting on our little Nokias, which seemingly hadn't arrived yet in the US: "What are these people talking about?" 

For the longest time, Nokia was the only brand I'd buy. But when I moved to the US, they were hard to get.

Now Nokia is back, under the ownership of startup HMD Global. 

It's releasing new phones -- the Nokia 6 and the Nokia 8 Sirocco, for example -- and it's begun to advertise them to the world.

Some phone manufacturers can't help descend into litanies of specs, hoping to blind you with supposed science.

Nokia seems to understand that it has a heritage, one to which at least some people are emotionally attached. 

So it's released ads that try to appeal to your human nature, not your (slightly less) human nerd-ture. 

The ad for the 6 and 7 Plus tells the tale of a relationship between two best friends. The true measure of this relationship is that they're there for each other when they're most needed.

When you're being chased by a bunch of kids who want to beat your head in, for example.

The message here is twofold. 

"You need a phone you can rely on" is, of course, the obvious one. There's also, though, the thought that you used to have a close relationship with Nokia phones, so listen to your heart and let's start over.

It's pleasantly done, if a touch conventional. We've surely seen quite a few ads that take you through life's important moments. Here, though, not once do we hear a single spec being injected into our ears. 

For the Sirocco 8, there's also an everyman appeal. Indeed, both ads are a little mannish. Still, the appeal here is again emotional. 

All the ad tells you is that the Sirocco 8 is a slightly fancier phone. Indeed, my colleague Andrew Hoyle called it "the swanky flagship we've been waiting for."

Cleverly, the ad doesn't make this swankiness feel out of reach. 

Instead, it places the phone in startlingly ordinary situations, such as singing badly at home or singing badly in the car. 

It's refreshing and clever that Nokia has chosen not to present painfully beautiful people doing painfully beautiful -- or even painfully exciting -- things, as some, say, Apple ads tend to do.

Instead, it's saying that ordinary people can want a fancy phone too, you know.

Can Nokia offer a winning image again? These ads have certainly been seen by millions on YouTube. (The best friends ad by more than 3.5 million people.)

Yet smartphone sales are suddenly falling and many people are choosing to buy refurbished phones

Oh, Nokia. I'd so love to get back together again. Text me?

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