Commercial Break: IBM Believes Punctual Criminals Should Be Set Free   Leave a comment

Broadcast: 14 October 2012
Program: This Week With George Stephanopoulos
Channel: ABC
Conglomerate: Disney

Advertiser: IBM
Owned By: IBM
Pitch: Don’t Catch Criminals With Us

Ever since it got out of the consumer hardware business and into the more nebulous consulting business, IBM has been fond of keeping its name out there with vague commercials that don’t sell any particular product or idea, but instead paint the company as a brilliant hive of super-smart people who can and will put their super-smarts to work solving the world’s (and, by extension, your) problems.  The ads tend to feature pretty pictures of cities and people and technology without much more going on than a smug voiceover to inform us of how IBM has solved this or helped out with that.

This particular commercial is a more down to earth variant on that same theme, only instead of making the power grid more efficient or letting people conduct business across oceans, IBM is helping the police to spot crime patterns.  There’s nothing really remarkable about that, or about the narration, which in this case is supposed to be a first person tale from this police officer in a nameless city:

Generic Squadcar

Hurry up, Bob, we’ve got to get this generic cop car back to the rental place by six.

I used to think my job was all about arrests.  Chasing bad guys.  Now I see my work differently.  We analyze crime data, spot patterns, and figure out where to send patrols.  It’s helped some U.S. cities cut serious crime by up to 30% by stopping it before it happens.  Let’s build a smarter planet. 

Obviously this is not a real city, and this guy is not a real cop, so right off the bat IBM is making this shit up.  And helping “some U.S. cities” reduce some crime “by up to 30%” isn’t exactly a bold, concrete statement of success. 

The unintentional comedy comes into play because unlike most of these ads, which are blandly pretty and gaudily high tech, this one looks like a failed 1980s police procedural pilot.  Not only do we have Officer Generic, but we’ve also got Shady McCriminal, who, despite checking his watch several times, is straight out of central casting for a TV crook:

Punctual Criminal

Crap, I’ve only got two minutes before they stop serving breakfast!

As the bland, nonspecific narration is going on, we see both of these guys driving in a hurry only to meet at the place where IBM said there would be crime:

Gotcha, Or Not

I’m glad we’re both on time.

As our criminal walks up to the convenience store, conspicuously putting on a pair of gloves but not bothering with a mask or anything, our IBM cop nods curtly.  At that, our would be robber acts scared, turns around, and walks off just as the narration is talking about “stopping it before it happens”.  So:

1.  Even by TV standards, this is a poorly planned robbery.

2.  The would be robber doesn’t think it’s the least bit suspicious to see a cop, panic, and then immediately turn around and walk back to his car.

3.  The cop doesn’t bother to investigate this guy, but just lets him go on his merry way despite the fact that he’s IBM-sure that this guy is a professional thief. 

Obviously there’s a very strict time constraint when telling a story in a 30 second commercial, but this may be the dumbest, least plausible police story currently running on television, and that’s saying something. 

Posted October 15, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Commercial Break

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