Advertiser: AT&T Corp. Agency: Young & Rubicam, New York Ad Review rating: 3 stars Voice-mail. E-mail. Wireless. Teleconferencing. Call-forwarding. Paging. Fax. Downloading from 30,000 feet. Tele-technology has certainly made communications easier, so you can scarcely blame AT&T Corp., or Young & Rubicam, New York, for reminding us how grateful we should be.
If they'd only take the main image spot and press 3 for delete, we'd be more grateful still.
The nicest thing to say about the montage, called "Day in the Life," is that by some miracle there's no jingle to go with it. It shows a sampling of the Many Ways Our Friend Mr. Telecommunications Touches Our Lives: from the first phone in some remote Chinese village to the first Web page at Lloyd's Boots & Western Wear in Pinworm, Texas, to coach Pat Riley telescouting with a basketball under his arm (now there's a subtle bit of exposition) to Chris Reeve teleconferencing to a roomful of child quadriplegics, to the only banker in usury history who pauses reflectively as he wires a giant loan to an industrial customer.
The guy sits back and takes a satisfied sip of java, pondering either the positive economic effect on a community of working people or how many basis points will funnel directly to his yearend bonus. It must be the former, because he's the only one in the entire spot who isn't grinning like a freakin' idiot.
This anthem is something close to generic AT&T advertising--phony and mawkish and nauseating. Yet, its underlying principle is one that makes the campaign quite good: the idea of making tiny vignettes stand for the whole.
In that way this campaign compares favorably to the networkMCI anthem from Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, which touched on very similar themes in essentially the opposite way. The idea was to dramatize the heroic egalitarianism of the Internet, and the roots of the commercial were inspiring individual anecdotes of digital democracy. But by the time they had been processed, digested and synthesized, their inherent drama and power were reduced to a string of dubious, pompous (albeit handsomely presented) platitudes.
No platitudes here. In one of three vignettes, a traveling husband finds a novel way to use technology to arrange a private interlude with his wife. He faxes her from an airplane, telling her to be on the porch--under the stars, naturally--to take his call at 9 p.m. We, who have more regard for verisimilitude than sentimentality, can only hope that when she answers he hollers at her for packing the shirt with the missing collar button.
In a similarly idealized but far more deft and poignant spot, a working mom blows off a client meeting to take her kids to the beach, deciding to conference call instead with her cellular phone. The verge of domestic chaos is perfectly realized, even if the plaintive line from the 4-year-old ("Mom, when can I be a client?") is a bit too heart-wrenchingly pat.
In the best of the spots, a teen-age girl comes home from a date and gets immediately online with the new boyfriend. She is a charming and very believable young lover, brushing her teeth as she eyes the computer screen for a response.
The drama is slight, the scale small, but the impact is powerful. Technology does, indeed, touch us in humanizing ways--a point more effectively made when not didactically, grandiosely presented.
This is a keeper. Press 7 for save.
Copyright March 1997, Crain Communications Inc.