MCI gives a primer in emoticons, forerunners of emojis, in this 1997 spot by Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG. "Emoticons" and "Space Kids," MCI's other ad that game, present an optimistic tone about the young internet. Viewers further into the digital age would encounter a more feature-focused pitch in AOL's 2004 trio ("Slow Ride," "Car," "Motorcycle") and a darker vision of the web in Coca-Cola's 2015 "Download Happiness."
"MVBMS was a very, very early adopter of email," recalled Michael Lee, a creative director on the spots along with Joe O'Neill, in 2016:
It was the way we all communicated with each other. Everyone had a laptop. One thing we did learn quickly that email was read with a negative net, that whatever you wrote tended to be read negatively. Weird but true -- still the same today.
I recall Joe getting an email from his dauughter with a funny thing at the end. We didn’t know what it was. He did some research and found that it was an emoticon, a way of adding an emotion to a message to make sure the reader knew you were making a joke and not being a jerk. So we thought that would be cool to play with that.
We decided to marry that with a nice 1930’s sound track to add to its charm. At that time, most Super Bowl spots were very loud, and set out to dominate the screen. We took a different tack, a more "charming" approach.
We built it completely in our in-house editorial facility, Berwyn Editorial, cut the whole spot, and showed the client a final, finished spot. They liked it enough to pony up the money for a Super Bowl spot.
Other typographic Super Bowl ads include Coca-Cola's "Crack the Code," Sprint's "Why Go Back," LifeMinders.com's "Worst Commercial" and T-Mobile's "Kill Your Contract."
MCI didn't use the Super Bowl as often as the other "big three" telcos. AT&T's big-game spots in the 90s include "True Voice," "Bowling Alley," the charmer "Bobby Templeton" and "This Is." Sprint ran "A New World" and "Why Go Back."
This is a long version of the 30-second in-game cut.
Production company: Berwyn Editorial. Chief creative officer: Tom Messner. Creative director: Joe O’Neill. Art director: Michael Lee. Editor: Scott Gaillard.
AGENCY: Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG