Is This Time Warner Cable Ad the Worst Ad on TV?
Have you ever seen a TV commercial so bad it makes you groan out loud — or lunge for the remote to change the channel?
TWC is my cable provider in Cleveland, Ohio and this spot runs frequently. It’s supposed to be cute and clever. But this ad breaks so many rules of effective advertising I can’t let it pass any longer without comment.
Here’s why I think “Something Old” is currently the worst ad on television and a prime example of what NOT to do in a smart marketing strategy.
The scene is a wedding day. Bridesmaids are helping a bride get dressed in a hotel room. They have something borrowed and something blue, but not something old. One brilliant bridesmaid spies the DSL modem, rips it from the wall (property damage, anyone?), and hangs it around the bride’s neck – “because seriously, what’s older than DSL Internet?”
Suddenly, Bill Cowher, former head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers and TWC’s spokesman, walks through the door (which has been left open, for some unexplained reason). He must be a wedding guest, because he’s holding a wrapped gift. But he’s also wearing a track jacket and ball cap, which isn’t exactly wedding attire. And he has a coach’s headset around his neck – perhaps to call the wedding play by play?
Coach Cowher proceeds to tell the bride and her friends that they don’t have to settle for poor Internet service: TWC offers high-speed access and it’s not a promotional price. The bridal party is delighted and the bride delivers the final line: “I’ve been waiting for this day my whole life!”
What’s wrong with this spot? Where do I start?
- Like so many bad ads, there is no believability to the creative concept. The premise – that a bride might consider wearing a DSL modem as jewelry on her wedding day to represent the “something old” in the common phrase – is beyond ridiculous.
- The spokesman’s appearance is false, forced, and a little creepy. Even if he’s a famous former NFL coach, what’s Bill Cowher doing lurking around the hotel room where the bride’s getting dressed? And why is he sharing advice with the bride about how to get fast, economical Internet service when she’s about to walk down the aisle and is perhaps focused on other things – like maybe the wedding ceremony?
- The “humor” is so awkward it’s painful. The bride’s line at the end – the punchline of the creative “joke” – is so incredibly corny, you want to slap her.
- In an even longer version that I’ve had the misfortune to see a few times, during the “something old” search at the beginning, the bride’s mother offers that it’s not too late for the bride to wear Mom’s dress. In a mean touch, Mom is totally brushed off and dissed again at the end. Who cares what Mom thinks? She’s obviously a whiner.
- The product is missing. You never see any demonstration of the allegedly speedy TWC Internet service.
- When the ad ends, you don’t really remember the product and you certainly don’t remember the offer – you remember Coach Cowher, the silly bride, and how annoying this commercial was.
The real problem with Time Warner Cable’s marketing campaign is that the company has no idea what to do with its celebrity spokesperson, so the creative team struggles to come up with ways to integrate him into places where he doesn’t belong. In every ad I’ve seen featuring Coach Cowher, including the bridal ad, he shows up in a weird way in a weird place and tries to start a conversation about TWC that’s completely irrelevant to the situation at hand. Check out this spot where he steps out of the shadows into the kitchen of the Miller family at 4:30 a.m. on Black Friday – why exactly?
Three Takeaways for Smart Marketers
As a marketing strategist, I can’t stand to see marketers waste valuable marketing resources on poorly conceived campaigns.
Here are some ways to do a better job on your marketing strategy than Time Warner Cable did:
- It’s fine to be funny in advertising, but the bar for using humor is high. What’s funny to the creative team might be really unfunny to the audience. Test the concept to be sure the humor rings true. Check out this very funny and realistic spot from Netflix for a great example of how to use humor effectively.
- If you’re using a spokesperson in your marketing campaign, create scenarios where he might genuinely appear or be expected to offer a relevant comment related to the buying decision. Just showing up – apropos of nothing – confuses and distracts the viewer.
- Don’t forget that the primary reason you’re doing advertising is to sell a product. If the creative concept fails to make you remember the specific product being promoted, it doesn’t work.
Do you agree with me about the Time Warner Cable ad? Can you name an ad that’s worse than this one?
Editor’s note: This blog post has really struck a nerve: Nearly 7,000 people have read it and dozens have commented. Many found the blog by searching Google on terms like “creepy guy in TWC commercial.” Read this follow-up blog post about the reaction to my assessment of Time Warner’s ad campaign.