Thursday November 25, 2004

Commerical, Hijacked.

So have you seen the new Netzero TV spot? My jaw just about hit the floor when I saw it last night.

You’ve seen the AOL ad, right? A secretary for an AOL executive is approached at her desk by a line of customers who have suggestions about how to improve the internet service. The secretary goes into the executive’s office to tell him that there are some customers outside who have some new ideas for the company. He asks how many, and she says, “All of them” as the camera angle pans up to show a massive crowd of people encircling the building. He then says, “We’re going to need more chairs.”

It’s all part of AOL’s new marketing campaign aimed at making the lagging ISP polish its image into something more people-friendly.

Last night, this is how the Netzero commercial went:

A secretary for an AOL executive is approached at her desk by a line of customers. The first man in line says something like “We’re just here to tell you that we’re all switching to Netzero, because they offer the same service for half the price.” The secretary goes into the executive’s office to tell him that there are some customers outside who are switching to Netzero. He asks how many, and she says, “All of them” as the camera angle pans up to show a massive crowd of people encircling the building.

Using a competitors’ logo or marketing style in advertising is nothing new. The cola and burger wars have made that tactic pretty common. What is most surprising about the new Netzero ad is that it is nearly identical in visual style to the AOL ad [edit] right down to using the same actors. Not only are the sets, camera angles, color palette and format identical, but so are the actors. The actors selected to appear in the Netzero ad look so similar to the AOL actors that it is only at the moment you hear the customer say, “We’re just here to tell you that we’re all switching to Netzero, because they offer the same service for half the price.” do you suddenly realize that it’s not an AOL ad at all, but a massive and well-executed “zing”. Ouch.

I was entertained. I thought it was clever and daring. It was something, as far as I can recall, that I’d never seen before. But is it ethical? In bad taste? Or just brilliant marketing? I can’t help wondering if there’s going to be a lawsuit.

UPDATE: Nov 27, 2004 @ 4:43 p.m.
Compare and contrast the 4 commercials:

AOL ad #1
Netzero ad #1

AOL ad #2
Netzero ad #2

Commentary


Dustin Fasching » 4764 days ago #

Just to set the record straight, none of the actors in the NetZero ad were in the original AOL ad. Not only is it illegal for an actor to do a commercial of a conflicting nature, I also know for a fact that different actors were used because I was one of them.

Jared » 4763 days ago #

I stand corrected. Upon viewing the commercials again, at my own pace, it is clear that the actors are different, but their likenesses are so intentionally similar that unless you compare the commercials side by side, it’s hard to tell.

Abel Rios » 4762 days ago #

I love this type of competitiveness amongst companies. Miller and Budweiser recently launched similar campaigns during football games. It’s hilarious to see companies duke it out through advertising.

Aaron C » 4762 days ago #

I intensely dislike both AOL (see: internet service to keep dumb people dumb, and make them dumber still) and NetZero (see: “the internet should be free* blah blah blah..” *free as in only the $#!! service will remain free), so seeing some cheap-shot/sucker-punches from one to the other gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. I loathe all dial-up pimp services..er..um “ISPs” and 9 times out of 10, I don’t like commercial advertising, so ethics be damned. Maybe next we’ll just see people from each company standing toe to toe calling each other “big stupid ugly poopy-heads” like 2nd-graders on the playground. Then, we could see companies making fun of their comptetitors smear campaigns, and vice versa until no one can tell what “product” is being advertised.

Josh Dura » 4760 days ago #

It confuses me :( Not only do I not know which beer to drink, now I don’t know if I want AOL or NetZero! Won’t someone think of the children!!!!!!!!!!!!

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