Plausible cyber-claims set Cisco ads apart

By Published on .

Advertiser: Cisco Systems
Agency: Goldberg Moser O'Neill, San Francisco
Ad Review rating: Three Stars

Khartoum--Hey, what a place! We've just had a splendid day, here at the confluence of the White and Blue Niles, visiting with President Omar Hassan el-Bashir, who had a nice lamb slaughtered in our honor and regaled us with hilarious stories of government-induced famine and genital mutilation.

Then, as we munched on some okra treats, we ferried over to the Jekel Aulia Dam for some bird watching and declared ourselves enemies of international Zionism.

Kidding!

Screen 1 from the spot

Screen 2 from the spot

Screen 3 from the spot

Screen 4 from the spot

We're not really in Sudan--at least, not physically. But the world is sure getting smaller. And moments after several cruise missiles made a portion of Khartoum quite a bit smaller, we decided to visit here on the Internet. Fun!

We heard a nice RealAudio song by Sumaiyah Hassan (title: "Don't Know! If You Know, Let Me Know!" Check it out.) And we learned a great deal about the Islamicist dictatorship. Our favorite fact: "Suffrage: None."

For this virtual travel adventure we are indebted to Cisco Systems, the gear supplier that constitutes nearly the entire networking infrastructure of the Internet.

Until now, Cisco has been a largely anonymous $9 billion company. But through a new series of TV spots from Goldberg Moser O'Neill, San Francisco--corresponding with Cisco's first attempts at consumer marketing--the company soon will be most nonymous.

One spot, called "The Mouths of Babes," shows a succession of young people from many lands and cultures mouthing sentence fragments which, when combined, suggest the enormity of our technological near future.

"The Web has more users ... in its first five years ... than telephones did in their first 30. . . . "A population ... the size of the United Kingdom ... joins the Internet every six months. . . . Internet traffic doubles ... every 100 days. . . . One day ... the Internet will make ... long-distance calls ... a thing of the past. . . . Are you ready? ... Are you ready? ... Are you ready? ... Are you ready ... [Here the kids from Spain, Vietnam, the U.K., the U.S. mass together like Coke drinkers on a hill shouting, as a group] ARE YOU READY?"

Then the voice-over: "Virtually all Internet traffic travels along the systems of one company, Cisco Systems. Empowering the Internet generation."

At first glance, this spot looks like one of those smarmy MCI or Microsoft commercials that broadly portray the Internet as a techno-panacea, bringing people together and promoting both global and interpersonal understanding. In fact, in style and construction--including a gimmick wherein the performers actually repeat copy lines for emphasis--these spots look exactly like those Microsoft "Where do you want to go today?" ads.

But then there is the second glance, the one in which you notice the compelling promise of no more long-distance telephony and--in another spot--the obsolescence of paper money. These are intriguing, concrete predictions, not pie-in-the-sky Pollyana. That's refreshing.

This campaign succeeds where others fail, however, thanks entirely to a basic piece of information. When the voice-over comes, it doesn't simply say, "Cisco Systems," and leave us to figure out who the hell they are. Instead, this campaign takes the simple, obvious, yet highly unusual step of saying precisely what the company does that gives it license to glorify, and take credit for, the World Wide Web.

In other words, in just the way that it provides AdReview and the Pentagon a street map of Khartoum, Cisco makes the connection.

Copyright August 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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