Verizon’s Dumb Ad, or You Too Can Be a Goat

19 07 2014

One of the biggest annoyances of getting most of my first-run television via Hulu is the ads. Where each ad break used to have one, maybe two ads, it’s now common to have to sit through five. This would be annoying enough on its own, but it’s made worse by the repetition. On normal television, it’s rare to see the same five ads in each and every ad break (or at least it used to be – I haven’t watched normal television in a long time). With Hulu, you get the same ads, over and over and over. What might have been a minor annoyance quickly escalates with repetition, and I’ve become extremely nit-picky about ad production. In a lot of cases, I’m noticing really minor and occasionally amusing things, like the fact that the Geico pig routinely uses touchscreens with the hard part of his hoof – touchscreens wouldn’t register a tap without skin contact. It’s rare that I’m genuinely bothered by anything other than the advertiser’s assumption that I’m an idiot, but Verizon managed to pull it off with their most recent ad.

It starts off innocently (and even amusingly) enough – a guy emerges from an ice-fishing hole and hands a lamb to two bewildered fishermen. He’s a hero! He rescued the nonsensically trapped lamb from the frigid waters! This sets up the ad’s central conceit, that Verizon’s wireless service will allow you to be a hero (though a wireless phone probably wouldn’t be much use while rescuing a submerged sheep). Our protagonist then uses his phone to (slightly creepily) assist a woman stuck in the rain. Then things go all wrong. Continuing the hyperbolic nonsense angle of the sheep rescue, we find the protagonist coming to the aid of a space shuttle experiencing a temperature spike. He floats alongside the shuttle and sees a problem with its heat shielding, which he is implied to be able to fix thanks to Verizon.

This is dumb for lots of reasons, of course, but what makes it genuinely offensive is the fact that the shuttle Columbia and her seven person crew were lost in 2003 due to a damaged heat shield. It’s in really poor taste to posit a wacky opportunity for smartphone based heroism that uses the same problem that killed seven astronauts. The setup alone is bad enough, but joking that some idiot with a smartphone and a crescent wrench could have fixed it takes it even farther. After the Columbia was lost, subsequent shuttle missions required careful observation of their heat shields while in orbit in order to prevent failure on reentry. On at least one mission, potentially dangerous damage was discovered and the decision had to be made whether to attempt reentry. If only they’d had some idiot with a smartphone and a crescent wrench!

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