An evening of television will yield any number of advertising shortcomings. Here a confusing premise. Here a bizarre media buy. There a mish-mash of creative elements. There a script full of gobbledygook. And, oh look at this, a fancy production thrown at a non-idea.
But sheesh, how often do you see all of that in one commercial? Yet AT&T, via Rodgers Townsend, St. Louis, has pulled it off with a spot that is ethically aboveboard, morally inoffensive, technically sound and yet still irredeemably terrible.
Millions of dollars have been spent on it already, maybe because EPA regulations prohibit simply setting the cash on fire.
The spot is called "The World According to Kara." Let's watch:
"What if success comes all at once?" asks a female voice-over, as an old-fashioned Speed Graphic flashbulb ignites and we see a swooning crowd of teenage girls, circa the Beatles first trip to America. Not that the images register; we're exactly three seconds into the commercial. Next comes a young bespectacled woman standing in front of a backdrop that says "The World According to Kara." She folds her arms, so she must be some sort of impressive career woman. Four seconds gone, and ... oops!
What's going on?
Now she's in front of a different backdrop, onto which several magazine covers materialize. One is called Online Retailer. Another is called Global Retailer. We don't know why they are there, inasmuch as a) the covers don't offer any clues as to what's going on and b) those titles don't exist.
Wait. There's our girl's image on one of the suddenly opening inside pages, headlined "Record Breaking Sales." And now the image talks! "Can we handle our good fortune?" she asks. "Can we reap what we sow?"
Reaping. That's the cue for the bison-stampede shot. "When demand hits," she says, "will we receive it with open arms?" Whoa. A rare triple-mixed metaphor. Next thing, she's walking up the steps of some neoclassical building. The press vultures are there again taking her picture, so maybe she's a business celebrity visiting the stock exchange. But we're kind of thinking it's a federal courthouse. This is 12 seconds into the commercial, and we have already been telebludgeoned by eight disconnected images into utter disorientation.
Anyway, as the photogs snap, the lady answers her own question: "Yes, we will." Then finally arrives a male voice-over with the actual pitch:
Dynamic networking service
"Dynamic networking from the new AT&T proactively identifies changes in traffic volume and responds in real time."
Well, that certainly clears things up. Now our heroine -- we suppose by now she is the famous Kara -- is walking around her office/call center conferring with her staff as her AT&T dynamic network proactively proacts... "so Kara can turn high demand into big success."
Finally we see Kara in her shipping center, where-her arms folded again -- she observes as her colorfully packaged boxes of whatever roll along the conveyor and into the dynamic world of profitability. Then comes the logo shot, the 21st in 30 seconds and the only one that makes a lick of sense.
Oh, sure, with the luxury of slow motion, such as AdReview is now affording you, it's possible to perceive a theme here: a sudden rush of new business that can overwhelm a company. In real time, however, this is just a sudden rush of visual cues and metaphors that absolutely overwhelm the viewer. And not just any viewer. We saw it on "The Daily Show." We can only hope the vast Comedy Central audience of proactive dynamic-networking needers is quicker on the uptake than we were.
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Review: one star
Title: "The World According to Kara"
Agency: Rodgers Townsend
Location: St. Louis