Ad Age Remotely Entertaining: Nokia and the New Mobility

By Brian Braiker | March 01, 2018 |

On day three of the mobile industry's biggest event, we spoke with Nokia CMO Barry French, who was in high spirits, albeit a bit nervous -- he had promised his CEO that if Nokia had a strong week, he'd shave his head and paint Nokia-blue stripe across his pate.

Things are looking pretty good for Nokia, which means they're not looking good for French's coif.

If Nokia exists in the North American conscious, it's as a phone brand. But the Finnish giant recently licensed out its phone business to a company called HMD Global, which is rolling out a new flagship phone and a line of retro slider phones, like the 8110 "banana" phone. (Anyone up for an old fashioned game of Snake?) Nostalgia is a smart and fun play at Mobile World Congress.

But nostalgia is not about the future. Under the hood, Nokia is doing plenty in the world of the connected home, smart cities, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. Just like everyone else in Barcelona this week, French is bullish on 5G, the technology that will power the next generation of innovation.

"We know that 5G is coming fast. Much faster than anybody expected," says French. "It's just the sheer consumer demand. There are consumer use cases around 5G for some really basic stuff: video -- 4K video -- augmented reality, virtual reality, those things place incredible stress on the networks and demand capacity. 5G can really deliver on that."

What that means for a brand like Nokia is that the new mobility will be so much more than what you carry in your pocket.

"It's really remarkable what's going on," says French. "We were once known for connecting people. And now, if you look around us, we're connecting everything. We're connecting people; we're connecting things; we're connecting healthcare. All of it."