Loud and Clear

“Where’s the beef?” “Whassup?” “Did somebody say McDonald’s?” Some questions beg to be repeated more than answered. The latest example, from Bozell and Verizon Wireless: “Can you hear me now?”

Uttered ad infinitum by the “test man” in Verizon Wireless ads, it’s quickly passed the tests of pop-culture worth, serving as a punch line on The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live and for radio DJs and comic strips. Jay Leno is a particular fan. One Tonight Show sketch had mock footage of Alexander Graham Bell talking into a rudimentary telephone. The frazzled, white-haired scientist asks Watson over and over, “Can you hear me now?” A second bit repeated the same gag—this time with President Bush repeatedly asking the question while on the phone with Ariel Sharon. (This sketch proved so popular, Paula Zahn showed it the next morning on CNN.)

Bozell executive creative director Tony Granger relays this story of life imitating art: “I was on the train, and there was a woman on her cell phone and she kept asking, ‘Can you hear me now?’ Everyone was chuckling. It’s become far bigger than we anticipated.”