Software ads hack into CEO cyber fears

By Published on .

Adveritser: Network Associates
Agency: Think New Ideas, Los Angeles
Ad Review rating: Three and 1/2

Here's an amusing commercial IBM is running right now featuring a CEO being awakened in his opulent Paris hotel suite with bad news: the company's computer system has been breached by hackers. The caller then realizes there's nothing the boss can do, so why doesn't he just go back to sleep?

Yeah, right. Back to sleep, when everything from R&D to billing to payroll has been compromised.

Screen 1 from the spot

Screen 2 from the spot

Screen 3 from the spot

Screen 4 from the spot

The point of the spot is to juxtapose the trappings of power and security with the abject terror of suddenly confronting your vulnerability and impotence. And it works--provided viewers can imagine themselves as this pampered boss of bosses.

But, since this is all about creating insecurity, why not go all the way? If you're going to be a fearmonger, you may as well mong the maximum amount of fear.

"According to the FBI, 64% of all computer-system espionage is done by disgruntled employees," says a janitor, sweeping the floor against an all-white background. The camera has zoomed in quickly from the vanishing point, creating an eerily vertiginous sensation to underscore the janitor's solitary mutterings. "The chairman gets a half-million-dollar bonus. I get the 3% raise."

There is a pause here, and further zooming into an extreme closeup, as this particular disgruntled employee does the reckoning. "OK," he says, with a smirk--as in, "OK, if that's the way they want it, we'll just see how much I'll cost management." Then the voice-over: "Who's watching your network?"

Who, indeed.

Network Associates, a vendor of system-protection software and services, and its agency Think New Ideas, Los Angeles, want you to think about that long and hard. Every systems middle manager, upper manager and CEO who sees that janitor will feel the flush of a million pinpricks, like looking up from the car radio to see brakelights coming at you at 50 mph.

Why portray one fat-cat victim of computer trespass when you can trot out The Bogeyman? This campaign portrays the hackers of your worst nightmares, and lets you be the hackee.

A second spot uses the same camera technique to zoom in on a beautiful, leggy blonde, who (alluding to the old Clairol Ultress spot) says, "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful. Hate me because in 30 minutes I can hack into your computer system and bring your entire company to its knees. So while you're watching me, who's watching your network?"

She's haunting, too, but she's still nothing. A third commercial zooms into a shot of a young man, hunched over his computer, tattooed all over his face and extremities like Harvey Keitel in "The Piano." In a chillingly polite and respectful voice, he poses, "Why would someone spend their own time to hack into your company's computer system and post your confidential stuff on the Internet?"

Then, laughing maniacally, he answers: "For the same reason we pierce our tongues!" Then cackling in our face, he wags his own riveted tongue.

That spot goes well beyond pins and needles. It will scare the target audience so suddenly, so thoroughly and so memorably that their sphincters will lock up like Windows on overload.

Yes, it's a common scare tactic--but these are not unreasonable fears they are preying upon. You don't have to be the big cheese to toss and turn. Nor to call the advertiser for the tranquilizer.

Copyright January 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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