A Fish Called Lucent

Aug. 1 1997 3:30 AM

A Fish Called Lucent

79000_79466_mov_icon
79000_79467_audio_icon

Sound02 - lucent.avi or Sound03 - lucent.mov; download time, 3.50 minutes at 56K Sound01 - VR-lucent.asf; for sound only

Underwater Alt, produced by McCann-Erickson for Lucent Technologies.

Underwater Alt (the "alt" in the title is for "alternative"--the client saw several executions of this spot) is the newest ad in a series by advertising powerhouse McCann-Erickson for Lucent Technologies, the company that was once Ma Bell's lab.

41000_41954_lucent1

At the most obvious level, Underwater Alt is just chyron writing on a computer screen. As the tap-tap-tap of the spot's message glides across the screen, the keyboardist provides the voice-over at the same speed he types. We don't see the keyboardist--we intuit him based on the visual and audio clues.

"This is a demonstration," our narrator types. A demonstration of what? The screen and the clacking keys suggest it has to be something high tech. As we cut from a close-up to a wider view, we're informed that the product is "Lucent wireless systems and technology." In fact, no one specific product is hyped.

53000_53862_lucent3

Water edges into the frame from below, as if the computer screen is not just a computer screen but also a big, clear bowl. The rising tide distorts the words ("this is now just about the only place") and then swamps them ("where you can't stay in touch."). As the water fills the screen, a goldfish swims by.

53000_53863_lucent5

"Any questions?" our narrator types. The fish turns to face the camera, as if it might have one, and then swims away because, of course, we can't communicate down here. The fish swims into the next scene, across the company name and into the last frame, complete with name, logo, and a reference to "Bell Labs Innovations" (there's equity left in the old corporate identity).

Finally, the spot delivers an explicit message: "We make the things that make communications work," says and types the keyboardist. At the same time, an air bubble burps over the fish, making it seem as if we're listening to the fish's thoughts.

41000_41955_lucent6

The brand-name advertising of Underwater Alt aims to associate Lucent with the futuristic, high-end segment of the communications web. And by soft-selling the idea that Lucent is inventing the future for everyone (except for fish), the spot disarms potential technophobes by banishing techy talk and visuals.

--Robert Shrum

TODAY IN SLATE

Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

There Are New Abuse Allegations Against Adrian Peterson

After This Merger, One Company Could Control One-Third of the Planet's Beer Sales

John Oliver Pleads for Scotland to Stay With the U.K.

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

Jurisprudence

Don’t Expect Adrian Peterson to Go to Prison

In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 

The Juice

Ford’s Big Gamble

It’s completely transforming America’s best-selling vehicle.

I Tried to Write an Honest Profile of One of Bollywood’s Biggest Stars. It Didn’t Go Well.

Here’s Why College Women Don’t Take Rape Allegations to the Police

The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 1:51 PM Here’s Why College Women Don’t Take Rape Allegations to the Police
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 15 2014 8:56 PM The Benghazi Whistleblower Who Might Have Revealed a Massive Scandal on his Poetry Blog
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 15 2014 7:27 PM Could IUDs Be the Next Great Weapon in the Battle Against Poverty?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 15 2014 4:38 PM What Is Straight Ice Cream?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 15 2014 8:58 PM Lorde Does an Excellent Cover of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 15 2014 4:49 PM Cheetah Robot Is Now Wireless and Gallivanting on MIT’s Campus
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 15 2014 11:00 AM The Comet and the Cosmic Beehive
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.