Which is Better: Funny or Not Funny? It’s Not Complicated


ADOTAS — “Can you hear me now? Good.”

Those six words started it all. Two major cell phone service providers are just now catching up with the comedic fire that Verizon started more than a decade ago.

That irritating phone conversation

From 2002 until 2011, the “Can you hear me now” guy – Paul Marcarelli (pictured) – took over televisions during commercial breaks. The ads were simple, relatable, and best of all, funny.

We’ve all had that conversation on the phone:

  • You have exciting news to share with your spouse.
  • You’re listening to an important work conference call.
  • You’re chatting with your grandma who doesn’t understand the unreliability of cell phones.

Then, you only hear two words of an entire sentence. The other end is completely silent. Or the call is simply dropped.

You then move to another location and say the infamous tagline: Can you hear me now? These ads are relatable and spotty cell phone service is something that no one wants to hassle with.

In those commercials, Verizon asserted that they could solve this issue. Marcarelli walks through swamps, in storm sewers and other obscure locations and still manages to get service.

AT&T successfully competes

All these years later, AT&T has finally stepped up in order to compete. People actually watch the latest “It’s not complicated” commercials instead of fast-forwarding through them on their DVRs — a sure sign of a successful campaign. And when they can’t catch them live (or recorded on DVR), people can find them on YouTube.

These commercials feature a handful of kids and Beck Bennett (who has since landed a roll on Saturday Night Live). They discuss a simple but important topic: why “more” and “faster” are better.

Eighteen of these commercials are featured on the AT&T YouTube channel. With more than 1 million views on some videos, AT&T is practically getting free advertising.

T-Mobile adds ‘Jump’ program, competitors follow suit

T-Mobile has most recently introduced its “Two years is too long to wait” campaign with SNL alumnus  Bill Hader. The commercials present the “Jump” program.

Like the commercials from Verizon, these ads make a relevant situation – like placing your cell phone in a container of rice to prevent water damage – comical. And the message is obvious: None of us can keep a phone for two entire years, so get T-Mobile’s jump plan.

Unfortunately for T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T quickly moved to give theur users a similar plan. AT&T Next allows for a new device each year and Verizon offers an upgrade after six months.

How long will the trend last?

Verizon cut Marcarelli in 2011 and hasn’t made many memorable commercials since. Most recently, it released a timely Halloween ad that was more cute than funny.

According to a recent study from the Touchstorm Video Index, content from small brands trumps that of larger brands in converting subscribers on YouTube. The study cites only 47 brands cracking the YouTube Top 5000, which requires at least 43 million total channel views to earn the nod.

To rise above the competition, these companies may need to switch tactics – perhaps bashing one another.

Samsung and Microsoft started this most recent trend. Microsoft has used Siri’s voice to mock iPads and praise Windows 8 tablets. Samsung has bashed the iPhone, claiming “the next big thing is already here.”

There’s no telling where Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are heading – wthether they’ll stick with the funny commercials or set a new trend. But for now, their comedic approach has captured consumer’s attentions.


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