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Brand X: Soft Cell

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Brand: Nokia
Agency: The Richards Group (Dallas)
Creative Director: Lee Coleman and Kevin Paetzel

A smiling teenager chats on her metallic phone as her braces glint in the sun. A woman in a vivid yellow kitchen filled with bird cages sets down a canary-yellow phone. A few more warm, brightly lit vignettes, and then a friendly male voice-over delivers the simplest sell line of the season: "At Nokia, we've discovered our phones are a lot like pets. They somehow seem to resemble their owners." Thanks to its sparkling new TV spots, Finnish giant Nokia moves right to the top of the short list of tech companies (including Apple and Sony) that get it: The way to sell sophisticated technology is to not sell sophisticated technology. Just about every other cell-phone-maker is trying to win over customers with tiresome details about futuristic features like Web-readiness and one-touch dialing, but Nokia edits out those cold, hard facts and instead focuses on its reputation for good looks and great design. This is the company, after all, that introduced those clever, interchangeable snap-on faceplates -- a by-now-classic stroke of design genius on par with Apple's decision to issue its iMacs in candy flavors. (It's no coincidence that, like Apple's, Nokia's stock price has roughly tripled in the past year.) The canniness of this campaign is in recognizing that a colorful Nokia faceplate isn't just a shallow, cosmetic feature -- it's the soul of the machine.


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