Sprint Debuts New Ad -- Exclusively To One Person's Twitter Feed

James Earl Jones, Malcolm McDowell Video Will Preview to Fan and Her Friends

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Sprint's absurdist campaign with veteran thespians James Earl Jones and Malcolm McDowell reading everyday text messages and phone calls gets a new iteration today -- but this time instead of debuting on TV, the ad will bow first on a single person's Twitter feed. At 6 p.m. today, the new ad featuring the two actors reading a text exchange between girl and her boyfriend will appear first for Danielle Gray and her friends.

Ms. Gray is a fan of the TV spots, having tweeted about her love of the ads. Sprint and its ad agency team contacted her for permission and her involvement, and Messrs. Jones and McDowell did the rest in the spot called "Thinking About You."

Leo Burnett, Chicago, created the video, as well as the ongoing series with director Noam Murro. DigitasLBi, Boston is handling social media. Burnett shot 16 video ads with the actors; this is the eighth spot to go live.

Tweet from Sprint
The video launch will begin as a tweet from Sprint (@Sprint) to Danielle's personal Twitter account at 6 p.m. Sprint and Danielle's friends and fans will have the exclusive until midnight when it will be posted to Sprint's Facebook page with her tagged.

"Everyone else has bigger and better messages. We wanted to do something around what really matters to people and celebrate everything they do -- the little everyday things," said Mark Skroch VP-group director at DigitasLBi.

"People see themselves in the ads. They'll say, 'Oh, I've had that conversation.' … It was arresting at first, but now there is a sense of anticipation about what's going to happen in the next one," said Susan Credle, chief creative officer at Leo Burnett.

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Campaign results are still being collected. But in the seven weeks since the campaign started, Digitas has tallied 3,000 mentions -- not views or playbacks but original messages -- about the campaign, with 95% of those positive, Mr. Skroch said. Parodies are popular with fans turning to Vine or Instagram to "re-create" their favorites.

The use of Messrs. Jones and McDowell has also expanded Sprint's audience, the agency said. "Star Wars" fans who are fans of Mr. Jones (and his Darth Vader voice), for instance, have been drawn into Sprint's social media conversation, not a category of consumers that typically engages with the telecom provider.

"The cool thing is they're not spokespeople for Sprint. They're actors performing parts, with the motivation of keeping it important," Ms. Credle said.

The goal of the campaign has always been to incorporate real consumers into the campaign. From the first days the team has received fan requests to "do my posts." The "Thinking of You" ad will be the first in a series that will launch on actual customer's social media, with their permission, of course.

As Messrs. Jones and McDowell might say, "Totes McGotes."

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