Of things to lose, a phone is among the most annoying. But after the waves of angst pass, it’s natural to wonder where in the world it might be. Languishing under the seat of the cab? In the hands of someone nefarious? Halfway around the world?
When Fox’s new drama Touch was previewed in January, viewers followed one such journey of a lost phone, which is passed around the world by a series of unconnected people who take random photos with it before it’s serendipitously returned to its owner. While intellectually improbable, this conceit is one of the central threads of the series about a prescient boy who communicates through numbers and his father (Kiefer Sutherland) who tries to connect with him. It’s also the basis for Canadian broadcaster Global TV’s innovative marketing campaign to promote the series, which launches simultaneously around the world on March 22.
For a campaign it called “Global Touch,” the broadcaster seeded 175 phones on March 15 in major Canadian cities hoping to ignite its own week-long “phone-skipping” phenomenon. How? Where a normal lost phone is likely passcode protected, making determining the owner difficult, the Global Touch phones are wrapped with instructions on how to pass it on. When someone finds or is handed a phone, they’re encouraged to take a photo of something that inspires them, send it to Global TV through a preset number, and hand it off to a friend or stranger. Photos are then added to an online gallery and people are encouraged to share their experiences of being “touched” on Twitter with #globaltouch.
“We think it’s a great fit with the show. If a stranger ends up giving you this phone, what you think of and what experience you go through is a great link for the show itself. It’s very appropriate that way,” says Jason Keown, Senior Director of Marketing, Global Entertainment, adding that there has been no intervention on behalf of the broadcaster once the phone were set free. “We really just wanted to put the phones out there and then let people do what they wanted to do with it and not manipulate it.”
To further tie into the show’s concept of helping strangers and touching lives, the “Global Touch” campaign is donating 10 cents to the Make-A-Wish Canada for every photo posted to its online gallery, which can come from the seeded phones or personal phones. “We wanted to have this experience benefit someone and we thought Make-A-Wish was a great fit because of what they stand for and being children-based as well,” says Keown.
And what about those 175 phones, which are able to be tracked by GPS? Does Keown ever expect to see them back? “We’re not sure. Of course we’re optimistic that people will do the right thing and pass the phones back,” he says, noting that the website has instructions on how to return a phone. “Are we going to lose a few phones? Probably. But I think that’s okay.”