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Simple Works Best

In November 1999, Covad was an unknown Silicon Valley company in the business of selling a commodity, high-speed access to the Net. There are many versions of the access technology and multitudes of competitors, including the deep-pocket Baby Bells. Covad's executives wanted to become visible fast in order to create a brand ahead of the pack. But it's very hard to get noticed when you're selling a commodity. Covad's executives set out to make their pitch as engaging and as simple as they could through clever television spots. They targeted “grandma” for their marketing pitch and since “grandma” wasn't interested, and didn't understand the technology, the executives decided they, too, would ignore it.

Their first television commercial opened with a “new age” yoga class. The mood was mellow, the light was warm, and the instructor was calm. Everyone was centered; not a brow was furrowed. The instructor told the class to move into the jasmine-blossom posture while he left to print out the moon charts. The scene shifted to the computer where the instructor was trying to connect to the Internet. But, no matter what he did, he couldn't get connected. As he became increasingly frustrated, enraged, and agitated, his yoga peace gave way to red-faced belligerence. The scene closed with the instructor shrieking at the computer while he pounded it with his fists.


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