Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Xfinity: It'll Destroy Your Life!

It's hard to sell a product that's like a ton of other products. Xfinity's on demand video service is more or less the same as Netflix or Hulu Plus or torrenting and streaming movies and shows through the internet. When your product isn't unique and doesn't have as much brand recognition as the competition you can't rely on touting your actual service. So, your commercials need to advertise a lifestyle.

Here's where the Comcast people fuck up: there's nothing sexy or cool about watching television. It would seem like this is a no-brainer, but advertisers have tried to do the same things with stuff like soda. Both TV and soda are extremely common and neither are glamorous or associated with attractive or interesting behaviors or aspects. But, commercials have linked soda with seminal rappers, attractive women and ancient bloodsport, and the double whammy of world peace and acapella singing.  The difference comes from that fact that you can take a soda anywhere and drink it while you're doing almost anything, so you can market it using visually interesting commercials. TV is stationary and if it's on you're either watching it or you're barely paying attention to it. You can't have a commercial where a bunch of people sit around talking while a TV sits by largely neglected ("TV! It'll be there after everyone's abandoned you!") So, when you try to make it seem like television is a totally radical thing to do with your best buds it comes off like a satirical piece about how TV consumes people and makes them into idiots.

Even though the lyrics are obviously tongue-in-cheek, they still come off as a little nightmarish...

It's fun to pick a show you like
And watch it every single night
Until your family has to stage an intervention

You know how people will say something is "like crack" to describe how they can't get enough of that thing? Have you ever noticed that advertisers don't ever use that phrase? That's because comparing your product to an addictive, life destroying drug is not a good way to sell anything (except crack). It's kind of the same with interventions. You don't want to imply that Xfinity will slowly erode a person's life until their loved ones have to do something about it. Coupling the line "until your family has to stage an intervention" with a shot of this couple's daughter wresting the remote control away from her parents doesn't help anything. Of course, since these things are hereditary, this young girl is soon caught up in the same bad business as her parents. It's an ugly cycle.

The commercial also shows Xfinity more or less turning people into shadows of their former self. Xfinity takes them over, claims them until they are defined by their addiction. This is like an anti-drug ad, except where a PSA would argue that becoming a lifeless melting blob is a bad thing Xfinity sees it as an upside. Maybe they're hoping that TV reflecting silhouettes will be too stupid to notice that "like" and "night" don't even rhyme.

It's fun to look and see what's new,
While you're hangin' with your crew
Because it's fun to see what catches your attention

Now, of course you can watch television WITH people. It's fun to get together with people who like the same shows you do and talk about what you watched or have people to laugh along with. So, it's weird that when the song mentions "hangin' with your crew" we're shown this:
This man's crew is his god damn dog. Way to show the most depressing interpretation of hanging out. The only way this could be sadder is if he were sitting in a room with a bunch of mannequins. This poor bastard can't even claim that he only uses Xfinity socially and, like The Hold Steady taught us, "They say you don't have a problem until you start to do it alone." This man can't even hope for an intervention. Dogs don't have the mental or emotional capacity to plan such a thing. It's obvious they once had a close bond, since they both have exactly the same expression on their faces, but while this schmuck made a choice to use Xfinity, his dog's is an innocent victim caught in the cross-fire. Now that its owner is caught up in the world of on-demand television you know that dog's not going to get fed.

Woof, woof, you've murdered me Xfinity.

On the surface, this is a commercial that seems like a success. They created a dynamic ad with a catchy song and cool visual effects. But they got too carried away with the idea of Xfinity being like a drug that they've made it into the Trainspotting of on-demand video commercials. I love TV. I think the quality of the good shows outweighs the quantity of the bad. So, it's amazing that a commercial that has the purpose of trying to get me to watch more TV has made me think solely about all its negative aspects.

Way to go, Comcast. You've made a very effective PSA.