Comcast Ad Sics Lab Rats on Competitors' DSL

Great New Spot From Goodby Silverstein Offers Never-ending Brand Promise

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As usual, the new spot from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners for Comcast broadband service is totally Comcastic. Funny. Pointed. Relevant. Yep, as usual. But the best thing about it is saved for the very end -- which is exactly what will take place here.
Till then, let's just have a look at the thing.

Net connections lab
The scene is some sort of high-tech laboratory. We will come to discover that it's a testing center for internet connections, but the first thing you notice is that it's overrun with rats. White lab rats, racing around like the turtle in "Bye Bye Birdie," only faster, and mostly in midair. As two tech workers enter with their lunch trays, the rats are bouncing off the walls, floors and ceilings. A colleague greets them.

Lab Guy 1: "Hey, fellas, we got a little situation. The rats got into the high-speed again."

Okay, it's a joke. Broadband obviously isn't consumable, but in a Comcastic world, animals can accidentally ingest cable-distributed electrons and go haywire.

Lab Guy 2: [Very laconic, very deadpan] "How do we slow 'em back down?

Lab Guy 3: "We could feed them DSL."

Zinging the phone companies
That's a joke, too, and a zinger. DSL, the phone company's version of broadband, is so slow, it's the antidote. It's also the selling message here. The rest is just comedy, and pretty good comedy at that, as the first guy gradually loses his confidence that the situation is in hand.

Lab Guy 1: "Relax! They're harmless."
Lab Guy 2: "You're sure?"
Lab Guy 1: "Yeah, I'm sure!"
Lab Guy 2: "Are you sure you're sure?"
Lab Guy 1: "Mmmmm hmm."
Lab Guy 2: "On a scale from 1 to 10."
Lab Guy 1: (pause) "Six."

Part of the laugh is in the dialogue -- "six" isn't exactly certainty -- but more is in the delivery. This guy is reminiscent of the Otis character in "Kicking and Screaming," who tries to prevaricate but immediately surrenders. ("Otis, are you wearing a pajama top as a shirt again?" "NO! ... Yes.")

So, to recap: The situation is funny, the product comparison is wicked, the performance is good. But wait! There's more!

In this spot, Lab Guys 1 and 2 are black. Not for any particular reason. They just happen to be black. There's no "blackness" in their roles, � la, say, the "Whassup" guys. And unlike with, say, Southwest Airlines, which often uses black actors in its spots, there is no apparent attempt here to be cultivating an African-American clientele. There doesn't even seem to be any tokenism in play -- the vaguely condescending Hollywood gimmick of invariably casting a black actor as the tech wizard so as to gather "positive-portrayal" credit or whatever.

In this case, it just seems to have shaken out this way, which, on the never-ending path toward color blindness, is a nice step forward.

Best comes last
But enough of that. As promised, the best thing about this spot -- and this campaign -- is delivered at the very last moment, courtesy of the voice-over: "Comcast high-speed internet with PowerBoost. Fast keeps getting faster."

In a world of empty taglines (just last week, Wendy's unveiled the utterly forgettable "That's right"), here's one that not only offers a brand promise now, but in perpetuity. In other words: Get cable broadband. It's not only better than DSL, it's better than its previous self -- and won't stop there.

On a scale of 1 to 10, friends, that's an 11.

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