Bad Ads: AT&T’s ‘Ballet’ Ad

My poor television, which does nothing but what is asked of it, is often subjected to hysterical rantings about the nincompoopery that is modern advertising. The most recent ad to have me scattering flecks of spittle into the air is AT&T’s ‘Ballet’, which can currently be viewed via YouTube1. It shows the same woman in two parallel universes, one where she’s on AT&T’s faster network and the other where she’s on a different, ever-so-slightly slower network. As she walks outside, she downloads something to her phone. When her download finishes, she puts away her phone, dropping her ballet shoes in the process.

In the AT&T universe where her download finished faster, a pair of ballet producers take notice of the woman. She joins them, auditions, and gets a part. How very fortunate that she had that AT&T phone!

A second still from the ad
On the left is the AT&T universe. On the right is a depressing world of unfulfilled promise and crushing despair.

In the non-AT&T universe, the ballet producers pass our protagonist by without noticing her, leaving her to continue her sad and unfulfilling existence. Ultimately, she watches someone else perform in the ballet and contemplates taking her own life.

Of course, the two outcomes have no real relation to AT&T or its supposedly faster network. They’re simple chance. If the producers had left their office 5 seconds later, AT&T’s network would have had the woman dropping her slippers too early, while the slow network would have led to the fulfillment of all her dreams.

Here’s a tip for the thousands of advertising executives out there among my faithful readers: if the meaning of your ad depends on a coin flip, you probably don’t have a very good ad. Also, a follow-up tip, a quick look at the numbers says that you probably don’t have a very good ad anyway.

The most galling bit is that it would be so easy to fix this dreck. Instead of a chance meeting on the street caused by dropped ballet slippers, the woman could be downloading directions to a ballet audition. The faster AT&T network would get her the directions sooner, so she could set off and get the part. The slower network could delay her enough that by the time she got to the audition, the part has gone to someone else. Everything else could remain the same, and the entire premise would no longer revolve around happenstance.

AT&T advertisers, you’re welcome to this idea free of charge. It’s all yours, because avoiding the mental drain caused by your brainlessness is worth far more than money.


  1. I’ve also archived the commercial in all its 720p wretchedness here. ↩︎