And here I thought we were done with issue ads for at least a few more months, before the insanity of the 2016 elections really takes off. Thanks to apparent coming of Net Neutrality/Title II regulations for the wireless industry, however, CTIA has come out with this half-hearted whimper of advocacy (see video here or below):
There’s a continuum of authenticity to people-on-the-street ads, and this one is clearly far out on the “bogus-as-hell” end of it. Sure, some people might say it’s clearly not meant to seem authentic, but if that’s the case, why go with the format in the first place?
Pretty much everything about it is vaguely cringe-inducing. “Washington isn’t exactly known for its next-gen thinking, is it?” scolds Totally Not An Actor Old Guy In A Suit, in an extra-subtle outreach to pro-business conservative types. “More taxes? I already pay the government enough, and I need this for work,” squeals Totally Not An Actor Pantsuit Lady, in an extra-subtle outreach to small business owners. (You see, the enthusiastic, bearded young narrator explains, your taxes will go up a weirdly specific $72 if Title II regulation happens, because of reasons we apparently don’t have time to talk about in this spot.)
And on, and on. Young Urban Man is supposed to be angry that his free Pandora – “it’s free,” he tells the interviewer, apropos of nothing much – will go away because of Title II. Young Unemployed Woman, whose mobile connection is her only Internet service, is supposed to be scared about her taxes and fees going up as a result of Title II. The unfairness of it all!
We also get long addresses to camera by the host, who harps on the theme that your mobile connection is going to get slower and more expensive because of heavy-handed government intervention of a largely undefined nature. It’s a dumb argument, made by every hyper-profitable industry faced with the looming threat of oversight, and it’s one that the spot doesn’t even bother to support with evidence.
Taken all in all, it’s a lazy, disingenuous spot that rehashes the wireless industry’s same tired old arguments about why it shouldn’t be subject to Net Neutrality regulations meant to cover precisely the types of services that it provides. And it does so with a clumsy, intelligence-insulting pander to what the big carriers apparently feel are key demographics.
But the best part is right at the end, when the enthusiastic host signs off by saying “why change what works?” Exactly! Because everybody loves their wireless service just the way it is, right? Right?
Bonus Coverage: The Net Neutrality Super Bowl
I confess, this video (also shown below) got lost in the shuffle (sorry) of pitches and infographics and other general PR stuff that gets sent to tech journalists around the Super Bowl every year, reaching desperately for the biggest news peg in the land. But it, too, is worth a chuckle:
Flaccid attempt at a Howard Cosell impression? Check. Long stretches of nothing changing on the screen while that Cosell impersonator reads arcane parts of the Communications Act of 1934? Check! What about more of that, only with mischaracterized readings from judicial rulings on the subject? You know it!
Particularly funny is the fact that this spot highlights the certainty of litigation as a downside of Title II regulation – as though it’s the FCC that’s going to sue the expensive suit pants off of the wireless companies, and not the other way around.
The ad, in truth, reads sort of like a threat – once you get past the grimly tortured football metaphor and seas of legalistic nonsense, it essentially says that the FCC should just be a good little agency and take the meek way out by opting for largely toothless Section 706 regulations instead of Title II. Otherwise, isn’t it a shame, all this bad stuff is going to happen to the mobile Internet.
For a threat, though, it’s pretty laughable. If your big finish is having the Howard Cosell impersonator say “preserve an open Internet in a manner that promotes continued innovation and investment across the Internet economy,” over the course of an interminable 10 seconds, it’s about as convincing as Pete Carroll’s late-game offensive play calling.