Culture Jamming

Original Ad                                                              Rough sketch of new ad copy

Image                            Image

To provide an example of culture jamming I turned to AT&T for a print advertisement.  I do not believe that the advertisement that I found is their current slogan, but it is still one of their more memorable advertising campaigns.  In this advertisement, AT&T claims that they have “more bars in more places,” simply boasting that they have good coverage across the country.

My reworking of the advertisement would take that slogan and change “More bars” to “More charges” so that the tagline would now read, “More charges in more places.”  I would also change the image of the man to somebody holding a phone bill with a flabbergasted look on his face.  Finally, I would tack on “leads to the highest bills” prior to “in America” in the subhead (see rough example).   Both AT&T and Verizon like to boast that they have the best coverage and the best data plans, but both are constantly ending up in news stories where unsuspecting customers (usually parents of teenagers) wind up with bills costing thousands of dollars due to hidden charges.

I chose this particular advertisement because of its simplicity in terms of images, which puts the focus on text.  AT&T only uses the bright orange to draw attention to the advertisement, and then attempts to lure the customers in with an actual message.  This focus on the text allows my reworking of the advertisement to have more of an impact.

I chose the oppositional reading of this advertisement because I feel that it is an issue that is simply overlooked because of the sheer size of AT&T.  I personally use Verizon Wireless, but my distain for Verizon’s customer service has me at the point where I would not be the least bit upset if Verizon were to go out of business.  AT&T and Verizon have such a stranglehold on the market that they can force consumers to pay all sorts of unnecessary data charges.  A recent class action lawsuit relating to data charges was ruled in favor of Verizon, which furthers the stranglehold that these phone giants have.  The new data plans for both companies boast 2 gigabytes of data for “only” $30 per month.  The advertisements never tell you how fast 2 gigabytes of data is used on a smart phone, which then leads to customers getting slammed with overages.  I’m fortunate enough to be “grand-fathered” into the unlimited data plans, but I still feel that the new data pricing is ridiculous.  The fact that both companies have all sorts of fees that nobody seems to know about (because nobody actually reads the 5 page contract in size 3 font) seems a little unfair, which is why I chose this alternate reading.

In order to combine these two ideas of design and copy, I attempted to avoid making large modifications to the ad.  The hope is that these slight changes would keep the advertisement looking like something that AT&T would actually produce with a much different message than expected.  I would attempt to find a man with an expression powerful enough to show his emotion, but not so eye-catching that people would ignore the copy.  The subtleness of the image with the power of the small changes to the copy should provide an alternate reading strong enough to expose the unfairness of AT&T’s pricing practices.

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