Ameritech connects with its privacy pitch

By Published on .

Advertiser: Ameritech
Agency: Ammirati Puris Lintas, Chicago
Ad Review rating: Three and 1/2 stars

If you want to have an entertaining 5 minutes sometime, ask an agency president to do his "Advertising doesn't necessarily increase sales" speech.

This show is usually reserved for clients who, having been briefed on a 16% increase in "share of mind," start asking impertinent questions about why nobody is buying the damn product.

This requires some fast footwork from the agency guy, who has won the business based on extravagant promises about market share. He then is left to reconcile the gap with a rationalization, somewhere between Clinton's first apology and a haberdasher trying to outfit a 44 long customer in a 36 short.

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The thing is, there often isn't a direct relationship between advertising and sales. Too many variables. On the other hand--and this is the real bitch of the thing--sometimes advertising works.

It doesn't happen often. But when it does, notwithstanding how it creates unreasonable expectations among the clientele, it is a thing of beauty and a joy to behold.

Case in point: a new campaign from Ammirati Puris Lintas, Chicago, for Ameritech's Privacy Manager service, a feature that allows you to block incoming sales calls and other tele-nuisances.

Five spots dramatize the product benefits magnificently, refusing to resort to the obvious problem-solution approach, choosing instead to dwell only on the solution. Director Bob Giraldi, whom we tend to associate with bombastic '80s-era music videos, has turned out cinematic vignettes of surpassing tenderness.

One spot shows a dad reading his daughters to sleep. The point of view is the foot of a white-enameled iron bed, so we see mainly only a book jutting up and the soles of daddy feet sandwiched by four little-girl feet.

"This is what he said," Dad reads,"the night he couldn't go to bed . . . Mommy said . . . Eric, you have to go to bed . . . you may not stay up instead." Here one of the little girls pipes up softly, "Why not?" but Dad continues reading, until the child interrupts again, saying something sleepy and indecipherable. Dad presses on.

"Shhhh. Guys, go to sleep." The kids, however, are fighting it, wiggling their toes and wanting more cuddle time. The mood, the moment are sublime.

Likewise a second spot, featuring a dad shampooing his son in the tub, as the boy struggles with his ABCs. Or one of a young couple in their handsome loft apartment, watching TV while she noisily eats cold cereal. Sweet serenity.

Then, in each of the spots, with onscreen type, the pitch: "Would you interrupt this moment . . . for an aluminum siding deal? Introducing Privacy Manager . . . a new service from Ameritech. It stops unwanted, unidentified calls . . . before your phone even rings. Interested? For availability in your area, call 1-800-PRIVACY."

Interested? Hell yes, I'm interested. I don't care if it's only available right now in Chicago and Detroit. I'll move, because even though my kids wash their own hair, there are many less sentimental moments I don't want interrupted by some clown in a boiler room trying to sell me credit insurance.

Granted, Ameritech protecting you from telemarketers is like R.J. Reynolds selling nicotine gum. These people are gun runners to both sides of the conflict, and no doubt they will soon start marketing to telemarketers technology to defeat Privacy Manager. But never mind that. I'm in.

Advertising works. So there, agency bosses. Explain that to your clients.

Copyright October 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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