A spoof on the PBS series “Antiques Roadshow,” Ogilvy & Mather New York’s ad for AT&T’s cryptic (and now long-forgotten) “mLife” campaign looked to build upon and clarify the intentionally baffling series of spots the carrier aired in the year-earlier Super Bowl.
Rather than presenting a 30-second parade of bellybuttons followed by shots of a woman in the throes of childbirth by way of making an analogy between the umbilical cord and mobile phones ("Belly Buttons"), this ad was designed to sell the notion that wireline communications were old hat, the telephonic equivalent of a rust-speckled velocipede festooned with cobwebs. If consumers by this point had finally gotten wise to what AT&T had in mind -- hijacking Apple’s much-imitated house style, the lowercase “m” was shorthand for “mobile” -- the tatty perks of pre-smartphone wireless service (ringtones! sports scores!) were still relatively novel enough to merit an awareness campaign. (A second spot suggested that the castaways on “Gilligan’s Island” would’ve been rescued tout de suite if one of them had an mLife. Oddly enough, Ogilvy & Mather didn’t make the easy joke about the professor fashioning a cell phone out of a coconut.)
While AT&T added approximately 3 million subs over the life of the campaign, the company scuttled mLife just eight months after the “Antiques” and “Gilligan” spots debuted, transitioning to a new $125 million Goodby, Silverstein effort that echoed the classic “Reach out and touch someone” initiative.
AGENCY: Ogilvy & Mather