A Fish Called Lucent

Aug. 1 1997 3:30 AM

A Fish Called Lucent

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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.

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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.

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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.

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"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.

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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

Robert Shrum is a leading Democratic political consultant.

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