Sociology 304

March 31, 1998

High Tech Commercials

1. Introduction. In our society, the images portrayed by commercials provide some idea concerning the manner in which products and services as commodities are generally viewed.

The high tech advertisements used in this class come from three advertisers - AT&T, Chrysler Corporation, and Microsoft. Each has a different approach and application to commercials, and each illustrates a number of features associated with the role of these new technologies in contemporary society. In general, these commercials can be considered to be examples of the claims of the virtual class, and they portray aspects of the direction in which the virtual class wishes society to go.

2. AT&T Advertisements. These provide some examples of what Kroker calls the recombinant commodity. They also illustrate a number of points that Kroker raises concerning the hype and commercialization associated with the virtual class.

a. AT&T. Traces its origins back to Alexander Graham Bell. Bell telephone was established in 1877, and was also closely associated with high finance. It became one of the world's largest companies, at one time owning about 80% of the U.S. telephone industry, and by 1980 had over one million employees. In 1984, there was deregulation in the United States, and AT&T was broken up into several parts. It still had 373,000 employees though and has become one of the largest telecommunications companies. The advertisements show the wide range of services they offer and sell.

b. Analysis. Among the points illustrated in the advertisements:

c. Conclusion on AT&T. Advertisements show ways in which the virtual class is attempting to seduce and draw consumers into virtuality. Those ads emphasize community, family, and human relationships, features which may get lost in modern society, and which are being promised through the new digital technologies. The problems raised by Kroker, and the down side of contemporary society (poverty, unemployment, inequality, lack of jobs, lost human potential, crime) are not mentioned, and the whole set of images attempts to seduce us into forgetting about these problems. Lots of good things happen in cyberspace, so let's get on board.

3. Chrysler Corporation. The two Dodge Intrepid advertisements are primarily aimed at promoting that car. However, these particular commercials use the language and vision of high tech to carry on that promotion. In particular, note three aspects of these commercials:

4. Microsoft. The Microsoft commercials provide a different approach than does AT&T. These are not high pressure advertisements, but instead provide images of normal people, doing normal work activities. In some of the Microsoft commercials, the advantages of high tech solutions are not explicitly provided, but are more implicit.

Note in the first commercial how the only two statements are "If you can do what you love, that's incredible" and "Anybody who says that one person can't make a difference is wrong." These are two cliches that are juxtaposed with various people doing various tasks, sometimes with computers, sometimes with computers only suggested. In the case of the semi-truck, the only computer related aspect appears to be the design on a computer screen

Ideas of power and importance for computer technology stand behind the Microsoft claims. The commercials suggest that with computer or Microsoft solutions, we can do what we love and we can make a difference.

The technologies appear as a means to pursuit of a better life and a better work experience. The commercial opens with a screen T.G.I. Monday - thank God it's Monday, a reversal of the usual expectation that it is Friday that workers look forward to. Here the start of a new work week allows the high tech, and even lower tech (truckers) to do what they want and go where they want. It's open - we can go wherever we want with Microsoft. But in practice, the going there is only virtual in many cases.

The last three commercials are devoted to education. Microsoft appears to have a major push in this direction - to convince educational institutions to move in the direction of providing computers to all students. Microsoft presumably hopes that these computers will have Microsoft Windows, Word, the Microsoft encyclopedia, and other Microsoft programs installed on them.

There is no doubt that educational institutions would be better off if they had fuller access to computers. The cost of these may be considerable though, and this should be weighed against other potential uses for educational funding. Note in the first educational commercial how the students initially do not have computers, and then suddenly they are in a different room where they have them.

Among the problem areas are:

5. Conclusion to Commercials. Adopt a critical perspective towards the high tech commercials. These advertisements provide some insight into the claims of the virtual class and into contemporary culture.

Appendix - Transcripts of Commercials

A. AT&T Advertisements.

These advertisements were on CBS during the NCAA college basketball playoffs, around the dates of March 20-23, 1997.

1. Teenage Couple Sending Computer Messages after a Date.

Closeup of a house at night. Light on in an upstairs window, with a shadow of a person, probably an adult waiting for the daughter to come home.

Shot of house with car pulling up.

Girl saying goodbye to boyfirend in car. Girl: "See Ya." Boy: "Yeah." Girl: "See ya."

Boyfriend in car looking at girl.

Girl in upstair hallway of house.

Girl opening door with father in door. Girl, "Goodnight daddy." Daddy smiles.

Music begins:

I go on walking

after midnight

out in the moonlight

just like we use to do.

I'm always walkin'

after midnight

searching for you.

I'm out walking

after midnight.

Boy in another hallway of his house heading to computer.

AT&T World Netservice.

Girl in bathroom brushing teeth.

Computer monitor. "When can I see you" with boy at keyboard.

Girl (with toothbrush still in her mouth) at computer monitor seeing "When can I see you again" on the screen.

Closeup of girl's face.

Girl takes snapshot of herself.

Closeup of girl, but this time the image is of the girl in the snapshot she has just taken.

Girl at computer where her image begins to appear on the screen, and then the whole image of the girl appears on the screen.

Image of girl appears on another screen (the boy's) and boy appears at the computer keyboard.

Screen image: Enter the word(s)

Search Angel

Girl sitting in front of her computer, painting her toenails and looking at computer monitor.

Back to boy's computer. SEARCH

Boy's hand on mouse.

Images of an angel appear in a frame on the screen.

Girl's picture is moved into the frame where the angel was, replacing the angel.

Boy typing "I like this even better" beside the altered frame.

Girl looks at her computer monitor and sees the same image of herself in the frame with "I like this even better."

Girl stops painting toenails, looks at computer screen, puts hands over her face, and laughs.


It's all within your reach

2. International Services

It happened one day, just after sunrise in Funan. Shenching became the first person in his village to call America.

Mountains and oriental music

Chinese people lining up at telephone.

AT&T Global Calling


Lloyd moved from Lone Pine to the Global Village.

Lloyd's Boot and Shoe Shop

Lloyd at computer monitor.

AT&T Electronic Commerce


And a man named Riley scouted six NBA teams at one time.

Pat Riley in front of several TV monitors with basketball games.

AT&T Teleconferencing Services


Later, a banker sent half a billion dollars and hope to workers halfway around the world.

Banker in front of computer monitors.

Workers in Spain.

AT&T Data Services


And a reporter sent word that the citizens of Clairmont were all safe and sound.

TV monitor with "Worst flood in ten years."

Images of flood worker at computer and another worker helping children.

AT&T Internet Services


"Nothing is impossible. Now we better believe that too.

Christopher Reeve inspired a roomful of people a thousand miles away.

Christopher Reeve in a wheelchair.

Children in wheel chairs in a classroom, watching Christopher Reeve on the computer monitor.

Video Conferencing


220 million times a day, people share information, ideas and dreams on the most powerful network on earth.

Man at pay phone.

Man with headdress at pay phone.

Children at computer.

Woman in airplane with telephone.

Man in small plane with electronic message "Dinner is ready."


And from a world away, a tiny voice greets Tong Shen Ching, "Hi Papa."

Back to China and the line or people at the telephone. Woman saying, "Hey Li." Child at phone saying "Hi Papa."

Older Chinese man wiping away tears.

AT&T. It's all within your reach.

3. Man on Airplane Trip

Man on telephone.

Woman in bed.

Man checking in at airport.

Child leaving for school.

Man on airplane.

Woman in home.

Man in airplane.

Woman in kitchen.

Man in airplane looking at hair pin.

Woman looking at same type of pin and putting it in child's hair.

Man in airplane.

Man hooks up fax machine.

Sheet falls out of fax machine at home.

Man in airplane as stewardess brings coffee.

Woman picks up fax paper from floor and smiles.

Man in airplane checking time on watch.

Woman at home checking time on watch.

Picture of fax machine.

Airplane flying across sky against background of stars.

Woman contemplating, waiting on porch.

Telephone rings.

Image of fax: "Meet me on the porch at 9:00."

Woman answers telephone.

Man on telephone.

Woman on telephone.

Woman on porch with stars in background.

AT&T logo appears as leaving eclipse of moon.


It's all within your reach

B. Advertisements from January 2, 1998 during Orange Bowl Football Game

1. Dodge Intrepid - Chrysler Corporation, January 2, 1998.




In 1993 we changed everything. Dodge became the new Dodge.

Car appears behind the words.


And the new Dodge became Intrepid. Now we're changing the way cars are created.

Zoom out from car and there are many images that turn into a cross-section of an engine working. Focus on engine working.


Today's new Intrepid is the world's first car designed, assembled, and proven on computers.

Zoom out and images turn into the interior of a car, initially the dashboard and then more of the interior.

Zoom out and images turn into the suspension of car,

and then the car driving away.

Enabling a degree of precision never before possible.

Bright light.

Image of an actual Dodge Intrepid


Welcome to the world of the new Dodge Intrepid. We're changing everything. Again.





[Dodge symbol]


2. Dodge Intrepid - Chrysler Corporation, January 2, 1998

Today we have more computing power than the entire industry had when we designed the first Dodge Intrepid.


We have the power to digitally blueprint, assemble and test a car to make sure things fit right and work well.

Above words break apart and refocus as a cut-out chassis of a car, and then several cut-out car chassis.

To make a quieter, roomier, quicker car.

Parts of car float in and car becomes assembled. Cutout then appears more real.

Car breaks apart and we see a cross-section of the car.


We have the power to change.

Zoom in and this becomes the interior of an actual car. Movement around the interior and zoom out and images become an actual red Dodge Intrepid.

Bright lights and another actual Dodge.


The new Dodge Intrepid.

We're changing everything.








The new Dodge.


C. Microsoft Commercials

1. Microsoft, January 2, 1998


T. G. I.



W h e r e d o y o u

want to go today?


Mouse pointer clicks on START.

Pencil pointing at monitor of portable.

Two men sitting and talking with computer visible.

Flip through screens to "Task Name List."

Two men, one working and one pointing at computer.

Women around table looking at some papers and talking.

Microsoft word images float by.

Woman at desk - talking, smiling, and looking up.

Word images.

"If you can do what you love, that's incredible."

Man sitting alone in corner of an office waiting room.

Zoom in on this man and he is the man talking. Word images.


Street scenes.

Close up of man in office with other office workers around.

Someone working on portable computer.

Computer screen images.

Man in garage pit under a semi truck.

Man standing and woman standing.

Schematic diagram of truck appears on computer screen.

Man standing by semi truck, talking.

Same man (?) sitting and talking.


"Anybody who says that one person can't make a difference is wrong."

Music. We could be heroes.


W h e r e d o y o u

want to go today?


2. Microsoft, January 2, 1998.

Computers, they're like a tutor.

They help you learn.

Girl standing in playground and talking.

"Wonder Around."


School buses.

Students moving through school hallways in fast forward.

Teacher in front of a class. Note no student computers in this class

START icon with mouse pointing.

Guess what I want to look up today.

Spiders. Do you like spiders?

Yea. Yea.

Boy at computer.

"Type in an article title." "Spider."

Web and spider appear on screen.

Microsoft windows icons float by.

Closeup of boy. Boy looking at computer and pressing keys.


We looked in Ancient Egypt. At their cities.

Cool. There's a shark.

That's gotta hurt.

Boy looking at computer.

"Type in article title" "Egypt"

Pan around Egyptian temple.

Four children standing in playground.

Boy looking at computer screen.

Shark and shark swimming.

Boys at keyboard.

Girl in empty classroom moving from chair to chair. Then 3 girls.

4 children in playground.


W h e r e d o y o u

want to go today?



3. Microsoft. WCCO-TV, Cable 10 in Regina, 6:45-10 p.m., March 28, 1998.

There was a person named Rumpel.

Girl reading a story, with a computer beside her.


I'm trying to create more fluent writers.


"While you're in my way," said Rumpel.

Teacher sitting at her desk with a computer on the desk and talking.

Closeup of teacher at desk.


Three girls, each with a computer.

Closeup of girls talking.

Students in classroom.

"Microsoft Word"

Girl looking at screen with sound recorder.

Lots more pictures, you get yourself sound.

I'm getting a lot more writing and in turn they're writing is a lot better.

Two delicious chicken with rice. I can taste it now.

Teacher closeup.

Students in a classroom with computers.

Three students, each with computers, one working at a computer.

"Two delicious fried rice" on screen.

Girl at computer talking about fried chicken.


Over the last two years, I've seen their writing improve dramatically.

Teacher in classroom with children.

Camera pans across room. Children scattered around room, with many computers.

All children raise hands.

3 students at computer again.

Omigosh, you made this all by yourself.

Girl at computer smiles and shakes head yes. With computer in front of her.

Music appears to be an instrumental version of the Jackson Five's ABC (do-re-mi, one-two-three).


W h e r e d o y o u

want to go today?



4. Microsoft. WCCO-TV, Cable 10 Regina, 6:45-10 p.m., March 28, 1998.

It was a personal mission for me to get these computers into the hands of the children.

Teacher talking in a classroom.

Closeup of same teacher.

3 children gathered around 2 portable computers.

I couldn't believe that they were actually going to do it.

Another teacher at desk talking.

"Microsoft Word"

I am aware of a recent debate that has come up about global warming.

Closeup of two girls with a computer at the edge of the screen.

"I am aware of global warming."

Closeup of 2 boys with one working at computer and other computers scattered around.

Closeup of teacher at desk talking, computer on desk.

They're kids with great machines. They're kids with power.

Mouse pointing to START. Computer image.

Shot from above of children at lockers in school hallway.

Girl standing in hallway with a portable computer.

Closeup of teaching talking.

They use their computers to gain access to information that they cannot gain in any other way.

Computer screen says "Hurricane.mpeg"

View of hurricane clouds on screen.

Closeup of boy working at computer.

Closeup of teaching talking.

Updated, hip-hop, sampled version of the original Jackson 5 song ABC (do-re-mi, one-two-three).


W h e r e d o y o u

want to go today?



Notes for March 31, 1998. Last edited on April 2, 1998.

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