AT&T's Crappy Punction Ad

Slate reports on AT&T's crappy, played-out new ad with juxtaposed faces and one prominent ampersand.

AT&T is in trouble. Its long-distance business is shrinking. Its stock has lately tanked. And this new commercial sucks.
The ad is part of a $200 million campaign that's meant to jump-start the AT&T brand. Sadly, the whole thing is an ill-conceived mess.

Let's start with the melting pot of faces. This approach is a variation on something I call the "Wonder of Humanity" spot. (This—almost parodically academic—site posts a great collection of such ads, deconstructing "the serial montage" and "the myth of communicative transcendence.") The key component with any WOH spot is a procession of racially diverse faces. They stare directly into the camera, and convey to us that their lives are made better with the help of a multinational services company.

Sometimes these spots will cut away from the faces (often to a skyscraper or bullet train), and sometimes the faces give monologues. Either way, the central visual concept is high-contrast racial juxtapositions (a shtick that hasn't been thoughtful or eye-grabbing since Benetton did it 15 years ago); the target mood is "uplifting"; and the result is utterly numbing and indistinguishable because it's so completely played out by now. Thanks, AT&T, for adding to the pile.

And still I haven't even gotten to the worst thing about this ad. Because the worst thing (not just with the spot but with the whole campaign) is that the central, defining, overarching element … is a punctuation mark! It's a $200 million media buy that's built on a freaking ampersand!

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