Let’s be honest here–we don’t like commercials.
If we liked commercials, the world would be a different place. Commercials would be a time of enjoyment rather than a time to use the bathroom and get more chips and salsa or to get more cheese from the cheese ball. Commercials are an interruption; our society has a short attention span and doesn’t like to get distracted from the main event.
Fortunately for advertisers (or unfortunately for our wallets), commercials work, ads work. Particularly, good ads do wonders. As a Best Buy employee, I saw firsthand what ads do. By far, the biggest items this past holiday season were tablets. Among those, the most popular were split between the iPads–no surprise there–and the Microsoft Surface line of tablets. Almost every single person inquiring about the Surface was aware of the brilliant ad campaign which pitted the Surface against the iPad, highlighting the things that the Surface does that the iPad does not. Some brought it up themselves, and other times I brought it up myself in helping to explain it. Another example of the fact that we pay attention to commercials and ads is Lamar Billboards. I’m sure you’ve seen a billboard that has been empty with writing that says, “You read this, didn’t you?” It’s a good point because it’s true.
Since we see so many ads, I quite enjoy a good one. Even more, I admire commercial series that riff on a simple idea in a number of ways. So, as an ode to these wonderful commercial series and their success, I give you Sprint.
As far as commodities go, cell phones and networks are reasonably interesting; as part of the tech industry, it changes fast, without warning, and drastically in a very short period of time. Already, then, Sprint has a good product to sell.
However, what I love about these commercials is their comedic genius. I think true comedy has been replaced by shock value and vulgarity nowadays, which is very sad. Comedy is funniest when it is unexpected, when it is odd, when it is out of place. The Sprint commercials go to the very core of comedy in a way that makes them also very memorable.
The premise is, of course, that Sprint is honoring the things that happen on its network. Even if we go no further, this is a good decision by Sprint and its ad agency, because it can be related to and is organic. There are many human interactions to chose from, but Sprint chooses the most unimportant, inane, irreverent of them to be upheld. This is the second component of its success.
The third and most important component of these commercials is the juxtaposition of how the information is presented. The two actors representing these are well-respected, older actors–but legendary ones. James Earl Jones and his authoritative, booming bass plays well against Malcom McDowell’s precise, dignified English accent. In a simple blackdrop, dressed in tuxes, and acting dramatically, these men represent Facebook friend requests, two people attempting to find each other at a store, and a couple of girls speaking in the most ridiculous teenage slang that can be spoken aloud.
All this combines to make a fundamental disconnect between what is being said, why it is being upheld, and how it is being presented. It is simple, effective, and memorable. It illustrates that juxtaposition is one of the most powerful tools that can be used. Are this commercials great?