“I am so clever that sometimes I don't understand a single word of what I am saying.” Oscar Wilde
Indeed. I can’t help but wonder whether AT&T has fallen victim to Mr. Wilde’s fate.
I’m sure most of you have seen the U-verse ad in which the parents of two children, a boy and a girl, are trying to decide which of the kids should gets to choose the final U-verse recording slot. The ad even has the parents proclaiming who their favorite child is. Let’s break this ad down into the messages that are being sent.
- U-verse has limitations, otherwise why would a choice be necessary?
- The parents are placing their interests ahead of their children’s.
- It’s okay for parents to discuss their children’s merits/shortcomings publicly.
- Declaring a preference for one child over another, again publicly, is “fun.”
- A child’s self-esteem isn’t of concern to his/her parents.
Can anyone enlighten me as to how this ad is going to make me want to use AT&T’s U-verse?
First, AT&T’s U-verse purportedly has greater recording capability (four shows at once) than any of its competitors. If that’s true, then why would you focus buyers’ attention on the limitation instead of the advantages?
Second, even if we give AT&T the benefit of the doubt by assuming that the rest of the ad was intended to be tongue in cheek, who among us hasn’t taken a hit to our self-esteem by comments made by others? Particularly painful are comments made by parents, whether made in jest or during times of stress. This ad reminds us of those times and causes us to relive the associated pain.
Finally, the ad has the potential to perpetuate this kind of parental behavior in people who grew in households in which they, as children, were subjected to this kind of emotional pain.
What can the rest of us take away from this AT&T ad?
- Focus on the value you provide. With U-verse it would be the expanded recording capabilities.
- Attempts at humor, especially tongue in cheek types of humor, can and often do create a backlash of emotions that you didn’t intend.
- Examine the social implications of your messages. Are they uplifting or denigrating?
Finally, let’s not lose sight of the fact that buyers aren’t buying clever, they’re buying the value your offering affords.