Camerawork Leaves Viewer Dizzy -- and Not in a Good Way

Sprint CEO Is Unassuming and Unafraid to Sell in New Spot, but Production Betrays Him

By Published on .

"If you could change the way wireless companies did things," broaches Dan Hesse, the new CEO of Sprint, "what would you do?"

Excellent question, Dan. You're kind to ask. Probably the first thing would be to make the phones work in more than, like, 11 spots on the continent, limiting the amount of time customers spend climbing onto ledges 23 stories above traffic to keep a signal from dropping. That would be one thing. Another might be a bill that a) is comprehendible and b) in some way reflects actual usage.

One could make a strong argument for a slightly different approach to customer service, so that the person you're phoning for help with billing or technical issues isn't a liar or a moron or a seething refugee from the Manson Family.

And, as consumers are also stakeholders in the company itself, maybe you could try not losing $30 billion this quarter the way you did in the last one. That kind of thing is a bit nerve-wracking, long-term-relationshipwise.

But the real answer, Dan, jumps right out of your new commercial.

In the spot from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, it's really nice to meet you walking down the street, all "Wings of Desire" black-and-whitey, well-heeled in your woolen overcoat but still necktie-less, like a regular mortal who doesn't take himself too seriously. You also have a charming, un-toothy smile that wrinkles up your eyes in the friendliest way, suggesting that even though you're a hotshot CEO, maybe you aren't a ruthless pig.

Plus you have the greatest radio voice ever. If this Sprint thing doesn't work out -- and it probably won't -- we'd totally buy beer from you. Or paper towels, Korean cars, whatever. Really. It was a pleasure to transcribe your pitch:

"Here's our idea: Use your phone for all the great things it can do, without worrying about the meter running. How's that for a wireless revolution? Pretty awesome, huh?"

You can say that again. It's pretty awesome when a guy who three weeks ago was in his necktie explaining to Wall Street about that slight $30 billion hemorrhage with no sign of improvement also can speak to us exactly like a clerk at Best Buy.

That's not a slap either. The point is you are unassuming and unafraid to actually sell. You're not begging, like Bill Ford did in his campaign to explain why his cars still suck. You prove there is dignity in salesmanship -- especially when the selling proposition is attractive: "The Simply Everything Plan. Unlimited surfing, push-to-talk, texting, e-mailing, GPS navigation, talking. $99.99 per month."

Yeah, awesome offer. Problem is, dude, we're this close to puking.

You're walking down this brick-paved street toward the camera, and the camera is backing up at exactly your pace. You're staying more or less in the center of the frame, but the background is receding behind you, as herky-jerkily as can be. It's dizzying, and not in a good way.

We personally were able to take note of the actual pitch because just a minute ago we had to write it down word for word. But during the viewing of the commercial itself, we were just holding on for dear life because the whole room was spinning around.

This raises the question: Is that production flaw a grain of sand in the oyster, an irritant that results in a pearl? Or is it just a classic example of a stylized gimmick that obscures, rather than enhances, the message?

Well, as long as we're posing questions, Dan, let's just revisit yours: "If you could change the way wireless companies did things, what would you do?"

OK. Here's our answer: Steadi-Cam.

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