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What happened to being cool?

Published Dec 7th, 2009 2:17PM EST

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Avril Lavigne. Luke Wilson. Whoopi Goldberg. Those three names don’t exactly jump out and immediately connect with us when we see them. And isn’t that the point of advertising? The point of branding? To connect to something, identify with it, and relate to it. Sure jazzy music and clean visuals (or dark, ominous tones with scary eyes) will help liven up your advertisement, but if you’re bringing a celebrity in to help, why don’t you make sure the celebrity is someone that people actually care about? I don’t mean to knock on Luke or Whoopi as I’m a fan of both (Canada can have Sk8ter chick), but while they might be intended to reach a certain demographic, in actuality they don’t help, they hurt. People pass it off as something they don’t care about. There’s no instant reaction or memorable moment that people will immediately remember or associate with any of those commercials.

Luke Wilson is brilliant. But he’s not relevant right now. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, he just isn’t as visible as he was a couple years back. Once he has a bang up movie come out, I’m sure we’ll all care again, but right now, we don’t. And to pick Luke Wilson to carry your entire ad campaign is mind-shattering and stupid. Of all the people in the world, that’s the best your agency came up with? How about Ben Affleck? He would have killed it. Hell, Matt Damon would have, too, and all he wants to do is help kids (NSFW). What, too expensive? Even if AT&T spent $10M in talent alone for awesome brand ambassadors, that’s still not too much to spend when you need to defend your network against the largest, and most solid network in the country with some of the smartest attack ads ever played. People want to root for their hometeam, their city, their favorite company, and AT&T doesn’t give them a chance to do so. No one is going to stick up for Luke Wilson’s commercials.

Either of those two aforementioned people would have been funnier, more personable, and could actually strengthen brand opinion in a time when you needed slam dunk ad rebuttals.

I love AT&T. I really do. I love the flexibility I get with switching phones, I love that the technology that I care about is 99.99% always going to be GSM-based. I honestly don’t have that many issues with AT&T and think people really blow certain issues they encounter out of proportion. But it isn’t about what I think, it’s about mind share and people’s opinions. People that aren’t glued to the internet. Verizon was incredibly smart to start their Map For That campaign. It made people question their cell phone service provider much like we’d question if the last Avril Lavigne song we could remember was really from the year 2002.

Never before has anyone really attacked networks like Verizon did. It was always about the phone itself. My phone can MMS, my phone can browse the web, my phone can work anywhere in the world. But Verizon hit hard and said it doesn’t matter if you have an amazing cell phone, your network is shit and it won’t work where or when you want it to. T-Mobile also isn’t earning cool points while their subscribers continue to leave because their phones have gotten so bad and their brand is getting diluted as there’s no clear strategy. Get More? Come on. Motorola CLIQ? They’d be lucky if they moved 175,000 of those things since release. Behold II? The BlackBerry 9700 is the only thing T-Mobile has right now and that isn’t even a conquest device as AT&T offers it, so it’s a wash. Bring on the awesome ads that will make people stay on your network, ads that really connect with us and make us say, “You know what, I like T-Mobile, I’m going to ride this out.” It was a mistake getting rid of Catherine Zeta Jones, an amazing, beautiful, personable, and strong celebrity. It was also a mistake bringing her back. Why? Because no one cares. It’s an afterthought now.

T-Mobile is becoming the new Sprint.

What do we get for T-Mobile’s ads? Avril Lavigne, Whoopi Goldberg, Jesse James, and other people I’m not even going to bother tearing apart. T-Mobile’s myTouch celebrity picks are mind-numbing. The first ones were bad, but they at least sort of made sense from a marketing perspective. Whoopi Goldberg, Phil Jackson, and Jesse James appealed to three very different demographics but the problem was no one who needed to care, cares about any of them. No one went out and bought a myTouch because of Whoopi, Phil, or Jesse. It didn’t happen. Did stay at home moms see Whoopi and say, “I’m going to buy a myTouch”? Nope. Did people buy a myTouch because they saw Phil Jackson and thought, “OMG. The back of my phone can look like a basketball”? Nope. Did people buy the myTouch because Jesse James just looks like a bad ass? Maybe.

In all seriousness, the phone is what’s going to sell if you don’t have anyone that’s memorable, and that’s really the point of what I’m saying. If you’re going to do it, knock it out the park, don’t Luke Wilson it. AT&T could have done countless other things to rebut Verizon’s attacks and they didn’t have to involve a celebrity that we don’t connect with. T-Mobile is grasping at straws with their ads of the amazingly stupid-named myTouch with celebrities that we don’t care about. They’re both wasted campaigns that miss the mark by suits in marketing that obviously have no idea who they’re trying to sell to anymore. Me, you, your parents, your friends — we’re the potential customers, and we’re not stupid. Plus we’re cool.

Jonathan S. Geller
Jonathan Geller Founder, President & Editor-in-chief

Jonathan S. Geller founded Boy Genius Report, now known as BGR, in 2006. It became the biggest mobile news destination in the world by the end of 2009, and BGR was acquired by leading digital media company PMC in April 2010.

Jonathan is President of BGR Media, LLC., and Editor-in-chief of the BGR website.

What started as a side project at the age of 16, quickly transpired into 24-hour days and nights of sharing exclusive and breaking news about the mobile communications industry. BGR now reaches up to 100 million readers a month through the website, syndication partners, and additional channels.