The insulting AT&T commercial

Picture of Tom Dougherty
Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

9 December 2020

A look at the insulting AT&T commercial

I generally like the AT&T Wireless commercials, even if I don’t think they do much. But Milana Vayntrub’s Lily is an appealing spokesperson. And the spots are simple enough. But the one dominating the airwaves right now is one insulting AT&T commercial.

“I generally find the overall campaign pleasant. But I’ve never thought they did all that much for the brand. But with this one AT&T commercial, at least, the brand means stupid customer.”

Here’s the problem. And why this spot bothers me so much. The most likeable character in the spot is Kash Abdulmalik’s customer. His smile when he says, “It’s the wrong person. It’s some guy named Carl,” is immensely winning. So our identification goes directly to him.

Then comes the zinger. “Word of mouth advertising. It’s what they did before commercials.”

Wow. It feels like a slap in the face to our delightful customer. Who found the call from Carl amusing. But the spot makes it seem like he’s out of step. The CUSTOMER.

The AT&T commercial says the brand is for stupid customers

The AT&T commercial even goes for a weird, meta effect by having Lily facing the camera right at us when delivering the punch line. Its underlying message becomes something like, “You rube. If you aren’t advertising on TV you’re nothing.” And it’s jarring.

The arrogance comes directly from the ad agency. And it’s amazingly insulting to both the customer and anyone in marketing. Like TV advertising is the end all to everything.

AT&T commercialWhat are we doing? Living the 80s? TV advertising is just one piece of a marketer’s pie. In fact, we live in the social media era. Whose sole purpose is to generate word of mouth.

I’m amazed this AT&T commercial got past the gatekeepers at both the agency and AT&T. I’ve been in thousands of ad pitch meetings and, usually, every detail is discussed ad nauseum. No one thought the customer was being made fun of?

My guess is they were thinking too inside-out. From their own vantage point, instead of the viewer’s perspective who identifies with the customer.

As I said, I generally find the overall campaign pleasant. But I’ve never thought they did all that much for the brand. But with this one AT&T commercial, at least, the brand means stupid customer.

 

The Insulting AT&T Commercial

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