Critique: AT&T (Almost) Wins ‘Another Battle’

NEW YORK It turns out that “Battle,” the BBDO, New York, spot for the Cingular GoPhone that featured a typical teenage mother/daughter verbal smackdown turned on its head, is up for an Emmy. (“Why do you insist on treating me like an adult?” the crazed girl in the spot shrieks. “Because you insist on acting like one,” the enraged Mom snaps back.)

Fresh, funny, clever, category-defying, beautifully acted and produced—the spot is entirely deserving of one of those Academy of Television Arts and Sciences award-babies. It’s clearly a winner.

Since its debut, Cingular has become “The New AT&T,” of course. And now the agency has released “Another Battle,” the boy version of the original commercial. And the question becomes, with the element of surprise gone, can a sequel do as well or better?

Well, it’s hardly as bad as Chiat/Day following up Apple’s “1984,” the most revered and awarded spot of all time, with “Lemmings.” That one actually ran the next year, during the Super Bowl, and showed a group of businesspeople in lockstep, whistling as they jumped off a cliff. No joke.

In contrast, “Another Battle” definitely stays aloft. The script is equally clever: The father says, “Listen, if you’re going to live under my roof, you are getting this new phone.” The kid responds, “I promise I will talk way too much.” Later, he tells the old man, “You just get it, don’t you?”

It’s a better-than-decent spot, to be sure, and the end line, about GoPhone “changing the conversation about cellphones” still works. But for me, the magic is gone. You’d think the setting, a big suburban garage filled with tools, would be the perfect backdrop for a boy and his pop to go mano a mano (or not). But it seems somewhat forced and Leave It to Beaver-ish.

Filled with fancy tools and stuff, it’s distracting, especially because the dad seems like a blue-collar guy. Granted, the girl version was set in an oversized, suburban colonial, which could be an equal cliche. But the fancy-pants setting helped build the tension between the picture-perfect house and the reverse-screaming family members. Mom and daughter definitely looked privileged enough to live there made the spot seem more authentic, because even at these cheap prices, gifting a teen with a cellphone is always a drama.

And because Cingular (and now AT&T) so raised the bar with the first one, this spot falls a little flat.

Barbara Lippert is an ‘Adweek’ columnist.