Nokia kicks off US advertising campaign with a Beta Test, takes on the iPhone

There is little doubt that Nokia has the deep pockets, ingenuity and cleverness to make an effective advertising campaign for the AT&T Lumia 900. The question is, when will "Operation Rolling Thunder", their nickname for their advertising bombardment of the US begin and what will it entail?

Part of that question is now answered with the site 'Smartphone Beta Test' ( which is a bold and humorous attempt on taking on Apple's iPhone. The site features a countdown clock that expires on April 6th and a video of a man who looks a whole lot like ex-Saturday Night Live alum Chris Parnell sitting in a chair, being bored as he waits for the countdown to expire.

Below that section we see three videos that directly take on the iPhone: Exhibit A "Outside", Exhibit B "Sick Golfer" and Exhibit C "Death Grip". All three videos feature marketing people sitting around a conference room discussing a blurred out, un-named device that is clearly an iPhone. One of the members raises a problem with the device e.g. the famed iPhone death-grip while the other two mercilessly mock him for even caring.

From here we can see one of Nokia's angles for selling the Lumia 900: they will directly be picking a fight with AT&T's former 'hero' device, Apple's iPhone (in addition to possibly any other "beta" phones, which for us brings to mind Google's Android). It is certainly a risky move but if any company can do this, it would be Nokia.

What's interesting is the site currently has the Nokia name crossed out and there is no mention of the Lumia 900 just yet, but we know it's them. For one, the colors of the site are very much a part of the Nokia "Amazing Everyday" campaign and the whole design screams Nokia. And while their domain lookup tells us little (it was registered by proxy, so no information), there is some solid proof it is them behind the site. By looking at the source code for the web page we can see a single Java script link-back to (see above image), which seals the deal for us.

We look forward to see what happens with the site in 5 days and the following Tweets (#BetaPhone) that go with it. Currently those hashtag tweets are done by just a few people, notably from Butler, Shine, Stern and Partners an ad agency which is probably behind this whole Nokia project.

Update: As noted in comments by wp7rocks, going to the site's images directory reveals AT&T and Nokia items. The most curious is this one, calling every other smartphone in "the last 5 year years" a "tester".

Update 2: Reports have come in noting that a teaser ad of this has shown on TV during some NBA games today. You can watch it here.

Source: Smartphone Beta Test; Thanks, cmunic8r99, for the link

One of the "Behind the scenes" video ads making fun of iPhone Antenna-Gate

Teaser spot now airing on US television...

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

  • Is that Dr. Spaceman from 30 Rock? :-)
  • "I got a buddy at Lehman's. Sick golfer." That's funny... Sad thing is I know some people like that.
  • Hilarious xD
  • My mom has a Galaxy S 4G which she is constantly complaining about not being able to see outdoors in sunlight. She also dropped the phone once on grass and the screen cracked. It's not just iPhone users who have suffered from these problems. I think a lot of smartphone owners can relate to these issues that they're going to say the Lumia 900 has fixed.
  • Dropped it on grass and it cracked :O Oh my
  • Yep it was about a month after I got her the phone for her birthday. :( The glass on the Galaxy S was very fragile. Funny thing is I got her that phone to replace her old Nokia tank which she'd been using for about 8 years. My dad is still using the same Nokia he got 10 years ago with some long obsolete $20/month T-Mobile plan.
    I've been calling on Microsoft to do an attack ad campaign like this for a while now because I remember how effective Verizon's Droid Does commercials were at tearing down the iPhone and getting consumers interested in Droid.
    I think the ad execs at AT&T are probably well aware that the only way to get people's attention is to tear down the iPhone and tease something new and better is coming.
  • Very funny!! Next gotta show a frustrated android user dealing with force closes and having to factory reset then lose everything on the phone.. Been happy with windows phone since launch of HD7.l!!
  • That would be awesome. There has to be an ad making fun of all the Force Closes on Android because you can't use Android for 10 minutes without having an app crash. They need one making fun of all the bloatware & skins on Android that you are never allowed to remove without hacking the phone. And the worst of all the fragmentation problem.
    Speaking of fragmentation I just found out from HBO and Cinemax that I can't run their Android apps on my tablet because the apps are only allowed on Android 2.1-2.3. WTF??
  • I hope they do better than this.  I've always been turned off by advertising that tells me what's wrong with the competitor.   If you are great then you should have plenty to focus on that makes you stand out.   We have talked about how Nokia's marketing in other places is positive, happy, feel good type of stuff.  It makes you want to join the party.   This definitely tosses a bucket of water on that flame.  I suspect this will backfire on them.  Too bad they are taking this route with marketing in the US.
  • Eh, I think you're being premature. I mean, do you really think this website is all they are going to do?  This is but one angle for them to advertise. Surely they'll have standard AT&T commericials, Nokia "Amazing Everyday" ads, etc. to go along with it.  My advice: lets watch what actually happens instead of assuming this will represent everything they do.
  • I'm not assuming this is all they'll do but it is their first impression and it's disappointing in light of the really positive campaigns I've seen in other countries.
  • Well, lots of people, including Microsoft themselves said they have to pick a fight with the iPhone/Android in order to get noticed. They spent the whole last year, year and half talking up how nice their OS is, features, what it can do etc.  The tech world yawned. Smoked by Windows Phone has brought them a lot of attention (good and bad) and seems like the best route to get noticed, so I'm actually more than okay with Nokia taking this route for some of their campaign with the 900. Being positive doesn't work for technology nor political candidates, that much should be obvious by now (Remember Apple's PC vs Mac and how popular that was? And Nokia's campaign in Europe has not translated into huge sales for them, so I woudln't consider it a success by any stretch).
  • Good points Daniel but I was equally turned off by Apple's PC vs Mac.   I'm sure negative advertising appeals to some people but I do hope they balance it with more positive marketing. 
  • I agree wtih you. Apple, or TBWA\Chiat\Day was famous for their negative image advertising on their competitor (PowerPC vs Intel, PC vs Mac), but it was all notoriously known such as virus on the PC, the business vs lifestyle, etc. Those things didn't change through out the different iterations of the Windows, people could relate to it. It was a bit disappointing to see what they did here for Nokia's big come back. To me they are just mocking the same thing that people already did last year, except they did it on a larger scale financially.
    If they were spending that much budget on the marketing I persoanlly perfer HTC's approach when they started their Quietly Brilliant campaign to enhance their branding and products philosophy. And I believe 2009/2010 were their strongest. (Commercial were aired in 09' I believe).
    I guess we'll see what Nokia will do if they ever decide to advertise on the TV.
    Never mind, the more i see the more I think it could be just something they want to do with April Fool. If it is then I take my words back. Still, Samsung or Motorola did a better job poking fun at Apple though. 
  • @BevT
    You are completely wrong about "attack" ads not being effective. Have you forgotten the "Droid Does what iDon't" teaser ads that put Android on the map in America. Verizon started out their ad campaign for Droid by tearing down the iPhone:

    "iDon't have a real keyboard"
    "iDon't run simultaneous apps"
    "iDon't take 5MP pictures"
    "iDon't run widgets"
    "iDon't take pictures in the dark"
    "iDon't have replaceable batteries"
    "Everything iDon't... Droid does"
    All with Apple style music mockingly singing "It's magic."
    This was one of the most effective smartphone teaser ads in the last decade. These type of ads can be extremely effective if done right.  I would say at this point negative ads against iPhone and Droid are essential if AT&T/Nokia wants anyone in America to pay attention. That's why Smoked By a Windows Phone has been effective marketing as well.
    It's not good enough to just say your product is good. Everyone says their product is good, you have to explain both why your product is better and why the leading brands are inferior.
  • Yes, I agree with you... Let us not presume this would be the only way they advertize Windows Phone. That beig said, I would like them to make a commercial mocking Apple's (back in 1984; see below) where they show people staring at grid-like icon and folders on iOS/Android v/s the beautifully different live tiles of  WP...just saying ... ;-)
  • It was already done, by Motorola in the 2011 Superbowl.
    they stated before it was a take on the 1984 ad, and there are some similarities, but it wasn't that good and failed to get noticed
  • Oops! didn't know that!! Sorry... And, yes, it isn't good... :-)
  • The tech (and consumer world) yawned because the marketing just flat out sucked. Put the PC vs Mac ads aside and you look at the iPhone ads. They get it right with showing how the OS works with just a hand and the phone along with a happy catchy tune playing in the back. I think those, more so than the PC vs Mac thing, is what sticks into people's minds. That stigma about PC's being inferior to Mac's had already been a widely passed around thing out there in the minds of consumers. I didn't think it was telling us anything new. Now, I don't know if what Nokia plans to do is a good or bad thing. If I had an iPhone or Android, I am not sure if I'd be endeared to switching OS' if I was being told what I was using isn't up to par, whether its true or not. I do know its exciting that someone is taking initiative in marketing this OS. Cause MS sure as hell dropped the ball on that one
  • But you have to look at each in context. for the Mac vs PC ads these were done to woo customers aways from PCs to Macs. this is done by saying look arent you tired with your product sucking come use our amazing product it will change your life. with the iPhone and iPad ads they do the show the benefits with an indy soundtrack. the reason for this is because they are the market leader. they cant woo customers aways from themselves but you will notice that they try to woo customers away from previous versions of their iphone/ipad. now with more pixels, now with more cores, "our fastest phone yet". you always have to make a comparison otherwise people are not going to understand why they would need to buy your product in teh first place. you might not be wowed by such marketing but then again you arent th average comsumer. for example if comsumer A was pissed that if he/she dropped their phone and the screen shattered why would they not want a product that is advertised not to shatter? the same with any other of the comparison ads. you want to play upon people's gripes/complaints to woo them to your product. that is good marketing and that is what MS and Nokia have to do. they have to woo customers to switch and at the same time entice new customers by showing how great the phone is.
  • Well, I am not so proud to say this, but I was one of those people that you mentioned who thought Windows PCs were inferior to Macs, "brainwashed" by Apple's commercials with the catchy tune and all. And to top it all you spend a fortune to buy them...and you feel "superior" defend your purchase because your ego wouldn't like to admit that the $$$ you spend was on a "not so superior" product that you thought it was. 
    Fastforward 3 years, now I understand Apple's marketing gimmics  and I am more than happy to adopt Windows and go back to what I feel is absolutely beautiful. Also, I completely find it unethical to own an Apple product after hearing about the Foxconn issue. I have an iPhone 4 as of now and I am planning to switch to WP (Lumia 900 preferably :-) ).
    Let me make it clear, the OS that is on my phone now absolutely isn't par with WP 7.5. It's absolutely necessary to grab attention of the people in the beginning, whatever way that is, to bring your platform to the forefront; once you've established yourself then you may discontinue to use some of those "tactics" (like there are no Mac vs PC ads anymore).
  • I hated those pc vs mac ads because they were full of lies. Apple really loves twisting facts around (for example, last year they claimed they macbook is the #1 selling laptop, because they count all their models as one model to make it the top selling model, even if overall it's still has a very small marketshare)
    Apple was always better at PR than Microsoft, which is why I find it strange that the foxconn issue falls only on them even though other companies, including Microsoft, use foxconn as well. In fact, the employees that went on strike over there were building the xbox, not the iphone. Somehow it didn't stick to MS and the other companies at all
  • you avg consumer sheep believed the mocking.
    I think they should do some mocking and some comparisons...
    Its the only thing consumer probably respond to now...  Smack talk works.
    Remember this is a "Nokia" commercial, not Microsoft.
    Lets not forget about the sports oriented commercials.
  • Good for you! However, you should be aware that Nokia is also a Foxconn client.
  • Not to my knowledge.  They use Compal to build Lumia 710s and 800s, as well as some of the Asha series devices.  Everything else, including the mid range and high end Symbian stuff (and the Lumia 900) are built in Nokia's own factories.
  • ESPN running actual commercials with Chris Parnell today, Nokia clearly displayed
  • These videos are focusing on what is good and distinct about the Lumia. The screen is designed to be viewable outdoors, the hardware is durable, and the phone has good signal strength.
    I think these videos went over your head.
  • Sound like a bunch of fanboys... It's freaking marketing.. Nokia is trying something different. It's. Something they are throwing out there along with other stuff. Some of you act like that will be the only ad they will show. I'm quite sure they will be ads on how the phone hardware and software operates.
  • No one makes it in a market being nice its go hard r go home in the market business look at eminem he talks down on everyone but yet he's been the most successful artest of th decade selling over 10million an album since day one
  • I think you've got the source link wrong. Would make more sense if it would like to the website.
  • I checked the site out, expecting to be cynical but I like it. The actual criticisms of the iPhone aren't really that damning. But the videos are well produced and I found them humorous. Implementing the Home menu with "Scene Selection" and cheesy music is a nice touch. And that's totally Chris Parnell. Very smart move by Nokia to bring him on for this.
  • I agree, but I still prefer the way how 'Smoked by Windows Phone' campaign take a jab at their competitors (before it got blown out of proportion by the stupidity of a Microsoft staff). At least that was a more polite way to poke fun at them.
    One of Samsung's ads which promoted their Galaxy Note did come across as rather insulting when they were mudslinging the iPhone. Not that I have any interest in getting either of them, but the way how it was advertised made me lose respect for Samsung. I acknowledge that it is a reality in any industry, but that doesn't mean that I agree with those methods.
  • They should do augmented reality promo like in Australia and Amazing delivery for all the people who pre-ordered their Lumias.

    This one was lame, 1/10
  • Really?  My initial thought about these videos was "Well it is April 1st".
    If this isn't an April Fool's day joke, I will reserve my verdict for when Operating Rolling Thunder actually hits, but I really hope they strive for classy.  Picking a fight with Americas 'beloved' seems unneccessary, especially since it wasn't necessary for their Lumia 800 launch.
    I was really looking forward to some Amazing Everyday advertising from Nokia.  Afterall, they even included an Amazing Everyday insert in the Lumia 900 box!  Just seems that Nokia's focus would be on the product (the Lumia 900 design speaks volumes) as well as garnering a favorable impression of the Nokia brand since they have not been in the spotlight (U.S.) for so long.
  • "Picking a fight with Americas 'beloved' seems unnecessary, especially since it wasn't necessary for their Lumia 800 launch."
    Taking the fight to your competitors seems unnecessary? I have to disagree vehemently here. It's how competition works: show why your product is better than X, point out flaws in X, etc. Re: the Lumia 800 launch, by most estimates, the 800's campaign did not result in the sales response Nokia had anticipated i.e. it did not work. It looked pretty and made people feel well, but it did nothing for WP7 marketshare. I see nothing wrong with Nokia being a little aggressive with their phone. It's time to rock the boat a bit.
  • As I mentioned, I hope the campaign is classy, and I want to see the final product of these marketing efforts.
    Still, I'd like to see some Amazing Everyday ads as part of the U.S. marketing effort :)
  • I agree with Daniel here. Whilst striving for classiness is good and admirable, lets not forget that the main aim is to actually get people to use your device. To counter the 'Mac vs PC' adverts, Microsoft launched the successful 'Laptop Hunter' campaign  which was under fire from the Apple lawyers. Whatever you think of that whole situation, the point is that people were talking about it. Surely that's the main point here, especially coming from third position?
  • Going to have to side with Daniel on this also. The iPhone has the user base to get A LOT of people talking and anything challenging Apple will get added media exposure. The Grip issue may be last years news but Mac vs. PC was poking fun at certain Windows issues that hadn't existed for many years and was still effective because it got people talking.
  • Great point!  Apple was talking about Windows 95 and Windows 98 issues (IRQs, etc.) ni their advertising long after XP was the mainstream OS.
    Hard to say it wasn't effective.
    Visit this link for some more proof of what Nokia is upto
  • Interesting - Looks like they accidentally made the hardware buttons black on the black version. Seems like a rather obvious thing not to catch.
  • Videos are cringe-inducingly awful.  Especially the voice-over in the beginning.
  • The third video ends with the paper ball bouncing off the guys head and freezes in mid air... Classic funny... lol
  • For the folks that want more positive advertising... do you remember any Samsung smartphone commercials other than the ones poking fun at Apple? I sure don't.
  • At least Samsung jokes were funny and new, this one is just beating a dead horse, I cringed, actually.
  • Remember how Verizon and Motorola dissed the iPhone? They have some commercials making fun out of Apple's flagship device. Check out their iDon't and Pretty ads. It was a huge risk but it paid off. The original Droid was the one responsible on making the Android ecosystem noticed by the consumers. If they did not take on the iPhone, I'm pretty sure Android wouldn't be as popular as it is now. Hopefully after this marketing campaign, an interest to Windows Phone boosts.
  • Those were better than this Nokia's campaign. Pocking fun of iPhone's limitation? Sure, poking fun at least year's news (and number shows people don't care), very bad taste. 
  • The antenna thing (you're holding it wrong) did feel a bit outdated, but I guess it fits with the concept of 'the last 5 years were a beta test' (which of course refers to the iphone launch date). Also, there are what? about 70 million iphone 4 users out there who have these bad phones?
  • Remember Instinct vs. iPhone?  I think that's a gamble that didn't pay off.
  • which a lot of people bought and then found out it was a crappy phone. I had a buddy who bought an Instinct and turned out it was buggy as hell. the VS marketing works when it is reasonably true ie Laptop Hunters, and fails miserably when its false or when the product is crappy. This is also why the smoked by windows challenged worked so well. because they actually are faster at certain tasks than other phones are. 
  • Comparing any Lumia handset (or Windows Phone handset) to the Instinct is just cruel.
  • I just saw a commercial about this site while watching the NBA on ABC!
  • ha me too! i was expecting to for some reason, and there it goes...
  • I think they're clever and poke fun in a light way.
  • Well at least it's not "smart enough for Mom" (eye roll)
  • Forums discussion link:
  • I like fireworks. This will be interesting.
    I can't believe AT&T's on board with this. Very, very interesting.
  • Why? everyone has the iphone. Verizon made the iphone look bad with their Droid commericals and then once they got the chance grabbed the iphone. its business and its in the carrier's business to attract as many customers as they can. and at the end of the day if Apple gets miffed they can say it was Nokia doing it not us and we have no control over Nokia.
  • LOL... You're holding it wrong!!! I so wanna see a fight between Nokia and that apple! NOK & MSFT = Winning!!!!
  • Please don't say "winning." Thanks to Charlie Sheen, the word will forever mean the opposite.
  • I think he's back to winning though...
  • I love it.  I just ordered 3 900 and I am kicking Sprint to the curb after nearly 12 years.
  • Nice!
  • What happened to all of the angry apple haters that usually post here? Its all peace and lollipops w all of this positive marketing talk. Sheesh. I say make em bleed.
  • Hell yes! Screw Apple... and Google, too. They both suck and deserve to be mocked. It's about time someone call them on all their BS.
  • Just saw an ad of this during the Bulls/Thunder game!
  • Just saw it as well during the Miami v. Boston game. Very sneaky, just a quick blip and it was done. Leaves you interested if you don't know beforehand what it is about.
  • I think it's a great idea. As long as they do they're amazing everyday ads as well
  • Nokia sure is creative and bold... Damn ... they got balls. unobtanium balls.. ;-) Haters of Nokia , find a corner soon somewhere...
  • people who are a bit uneasy with the possibility of negative advertising aren't "haters of Nokia". 
  • No, the majority ate just cynics, who are negative (ironically) about virtually everything.
  • Taking on the iPhone? It's about time they were on the offensive :)
  • Wow lots of ignorant comments
  • This timeline is better than the ads, imo; shows the history of the 'smartphone', how far they've come, and points to issues ALL smartphone platforms have encountered at some point.   
  • Unless something has changed recently, the thing can't open a database for viewing.  My PDA did that decades ago.  Is WP for reals?
  • I don't know what it means, but the "outside" video was removed from youtube...
  • ok, now "Death Grip" is offline. But "outside" was uploaded again... hmmmm
  • I was really waiting for windows phone ads that take on the iphone/android. This isn't the way I would go with it. I would prefer ads about things like the outdated 4x4 grid of icons (which has been around long before the iphone, how revolutionary is that?) and not a specific model's hardware defect (iphone 4 antenna)
  • Everybody knows iPhone is terribly outdated, those icons look like Windows for Workgroups, thing is it reached such success it's trapped in its outdated design, afraid to change. It'll rot soon enough.
  • Just saw the teaser on Once upon a time on ABC!
  • Saw the teaser on NBC/The Celebrity Apprentice..... Can't believe Nokia got Dr. Spaceman! (30 Rock reference)
  • Why are people overreacting I do remember when Verizon teamed up with Moto and the droid commercials were all about attacking iPhone and guess what I didn't hear no complaints folks were cheering that crap and now lets throw uncle Sammy attacking iPhone and the people that uses the. that's marketing being nice gets you no where
  • It looks like the videos have been taken down I wonder whats up?
  • Same issue here, wanted to show my girlfriend, and all that works is the video of the guy sitting around bord
  • I love the WP7 OS and the new Nokia 900 but it's not going to out sell the iPhone. Sorry Nokia you made a bad business decision making the Nokia 900 exclusive in the US to AT&T which has the competitors phone you're going up against. If Nokia wanted to serious put up a fight they would have released on ALL us carriers. Not everyone want to switch to AT&T and all the other US carriers don't have any new high end WP7 devices. So a large group of potiential customers will either get an iphone, android device, or won't even bother upgrade. 
    Sorry they're putting to much faith into AT&T only.
  • So many flaws in your post...
    1. if they were going to make it exclusive to a carrier that didn't have the competitors' phone (iPhone), that would only leave T-Mobile. While a flagship WP on T-Mob would be great, they have nowhere near the subscriber base of AT&T, not to mention the advertising budget.  Which leads me to...
    2. Nokia's exclusivity with AT&T is rumored to be 45 days, at which point they will be free to sell the 900 to other carriers. The reason for the the AT&T exclusivity is to get one of the top carriers in the US to promote the hell out of the phone. Between the clout of AT&T & the money of both MS & Nokia, it can bring a ton of awareness to Nokia re-entering the US market.
    Besides, with Verizon & Sprint basically ignoring Windows Phone devices, where else would you suggest they go?
    Just my 2% of a dollar.
  • agreed.
    preordered a lumia 900 and leaving sprint after 6 years. i'm going where the phones I want this time. I originally went to sprint for one of the first smartphones in the form of windows mobile 5/6 pocket PC devices. and now i'm going to the carrier that's supporting windowsphone
  • I don't know if I will upgrade my samsung focus to lumia900 cause I'm a little tired that microsoft does't release a descent SDK to developers...... an exmple of that is that: iphone apps open instantly and windows phone 'mango' apps takes about 4-5 seconds to open 'any