No AT&T, This Is NOT Customer Service. Let’s call it what it really is: passive-aggressive badgering.

We don’t need this “friendly reminder.” We certainly didn’t ask for it. And if you check your records, we’ve never missed a payment. So getting this text doesn’t “enhance our user experience,” it doesn’t “start a two-way dialogue,” and it most definitely doesn’t “make us more likely to recommend AT&T to our friends and family.”

Reaching out this way is all about you. And only about you. Unfortunately, it’s not just you that does this type of thing. Data-hungry marketers make this type of automated false concern all too familiar. You can’t take a flight or stay at a hotel or buy anything online anymore without getting your inbox spammed by follow up satisfaction surveys. Why does buying something from you put us on the hook to provide feedback too? Besides, we know you only want good news; the car dealership service center specifically instructs us to “make sure you give us perfect scores so we can keep our rating” (I’m looking at you Lexus and Audi). It’s gone so far that this past weekend, I even inflated a satisfaction survey about Comcast (seriously) because it directly affected the bonus of the hardworking and dedicated service technician.

I get that these help you, but there is a right way to do these things. At the very least, invest in some creativity. Or perhaps even better, invest in some humanity.

Set The Wayback Machine For 1993 TV Advertising…

And check out this campaign.  Clearly influenced by the interior visuals of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, this work from AT&T rather accurately foretold the world we live in today.  Of course, there was already a nascent, publicly-accessed internet back then, thanks to Mosaic, the first graphics-based browser.  Wireless technology and video phones also already existed but still, it’s rather remarkable to consider this futuristic big budget production from our vantage point here in that future.

That’s the thing about the vast modern digital world: everything published, posted or broadcast exists somewhere on that ever expanding interwebs universe.  Even, sadly, the musings of mindless Reality TV personalities


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


Twitter, Pastor Terry Jones & An International Firestorm In Less than 140 Characters

Nothing brings home the raw immediacy of social media as powerfully as the ascendancy of an inconsequential Gainesville, Florida pastor with a congregation of fifty people who hijacked the international dialogue through a series of tweets.

Think about that.

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago AdvertisingYou don’t follow him.  You never heard of him.  And yet back on July 12, Pastor Terry Jones sent this message out over Twitter: “9/11/2010 Int Burn a Quran Day.”   He followed this up by forming a Facebook Group and that proved the tipping point.

Other Pastors have burned the Quran.  Some have even posted videos of just that on YouTube (who shields this kind of content behind an ‘offensive by nature’ warning screen).  But Pastor Jones cannily tied his idea into the furor around the “Ground Zero” mosque and suddenly, he was holding press conferences.  He was issuing formal statements to established news outlets like CNN.  The top US military commander in Afghanistanfelt compelled to issue a statement.  State Department and White House Spokesmen, the Attorney General and our Secretary of State all publicly denounced the act.  Even the President addressed the issue during an interview with ABC TV.

With one tweet of thirty-one characters, the conversation of the day changed from honoring the still raw and painful memory of the innocent five thousand American working mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers murdered by terrorists nine years ago to yet another inane exercise in hysteria.

Politicians and pundits can debate those issues; I simply find it amazing how social media–this recently emerged phenomenon of  ‘imMedia’–has so profoundly altered the way we communicate, determine news and afford credibility.

Certainly hate, that pornography of human emotions, plays a huge role in all of this.  But so does the power of an idea clearly put.  From the outset, Pastor Jones set up his protest as an “Int” day, a rather aggrandized vision of his sphere of influence entirely in keeping with the precedent he set by naming his church “The Dove World Outreach Center.”  He tied his ideology to one easily-understood and shared act and that notion spread like a viral disease.

Back in the day, AT&T implored us to “Reach Out and Touch Someone“.  Today, anyone can text out and touch millions of people all over the planet, all at once.

The unfiltered notion of that sounds pretty icky.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


While You Watch The SuperBowl This Weekend, Most Advertisers Will Watch “The Big Game”

Google “The Big Game” and you’ll discover a long list of advertisers using that phrase as a free way to reference Super Bowl XLIV without paying off Roger Goodell and company.  It’s become a very common practice.

A quick perusal of sponsored links shows that AT&T wants anyone getting a Big TV for the Big Game to know it oughta have U-Verse.  Motorola offers only a tease, promising little more than the cryptic come-on that they’ll have a “Big Game surprise.”  I doubt it will live up to anything the average viewer might imagine…

In the always fun world of drinking and boozing, Miller High Life seems to be taking the high road, claiming they will be helping out the Little Guys on their Big Game spot.  Crown Royal takes more of a local approach with a reminder to give a bottle of their blended whisky to your Big Game Host and treat him like a king.  Their parent company Diageo suggests you mix your own perfect drink recipes for the Big Game at thebar.com since candidly, they’ll be glad if you buy any variety of spirit, as long as it’s theirs.

Figure B, Seen Thursday, 2/4

Sam’s Club is so excited about having you take your Big Game celebration to championship heights, but as of late Thursday night, their countdown graphic was running three days premature (see figure B).  On the plus side, LG Canada gave away a Big TV for the Big Game which Amy Tucker of Kamloops, British Columbia won it (Party at Amy’s place! In Kamloops!).

Online, Nola.com has cool gear for the Big Game, and the honoluluadvertiser.com has a disturbingly-sweet bean dip recipe for the Big Game.  Meanwhile, 2000 Flushes paid a blogger to run a sweepstakes that asks “is your toilet bowl ready for the Big Game?” (90 million toilets will be flushed during halftime!).

Advertising on the Super Bowl is a huge financial commitment and one that, despite CBS finally selling all their inventory, is not the lay-up it once was.  A good portion of the American Public thinks Chrysler shouldn’t have bought an expensive ad for Dodge so shortly after taking government aid money.

And yet with this much hype, this much interest, and this much collective attention paid to one of the very few remaining mass audience aggregations, the cost per exposure is a far better buy than your average :30 TV spot.

That shouldn’t surprise anybody.  It’s the Big Game–it merits a big bet.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

PS:  Living in the Bay Area and having limited exposure to football is no excuse to try to pass off the Cal Berkeley vs Stanford contest as “The Big Game.”  Even hyperbole has its limits.  Which the NFL sued to protect (read about that here).

The Cost of Format Change

Remember learning that the spaceships on the first Boston album were actually intergalactic guitars?  Did you ever spend hours staring at Shusei Nagaoka and Ria Lewerke’s cover art for ELO’s Out of the Blue double album?

Dig It Man, They're GUITARS!

Dig It Man, They're GUITARS!

You wouldn’t do that with a Greenday CD…

CD’s lack the visual impact of vinyl LP covers. And mp3’s lack any visual impact at all. Musically, these format changes have made the music experience far more convenient, but we’ve lost the visual entirely.  Which as the vinyl set might say, is a bummer.

It’s also why the whole mobile computing revolution leaves me deeply ambivalent.  Yes, the iPhone is an amazing device (though ATT makes it a lousy phone), but the more time I spend staring at it’s bright though diminutive screen, the more I realize aging’s effect on my eyes.  There is only so much information I want presented to me on a 2″x3″ screen because it’s hard to read.  Think about it: most mobile screens are smaller than a business card.

So the mobile revolution scores major points for convenience, but as a longterm platform or even a replacement for larger screens?  I don’t think so.  That makes as much sense as giving up your grocery store to shop exclusively at 7-11.

Or as the vinyl set might say, giving up 33’s for 45’s…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79