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COVAD

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It's nearly a generation since the feds broke up AT&T. Still, the image of a monopolistic relic lives on in commercials for upstart phone companies. We find it here at a mock press conference by a telecom behemoth, where a flack vows the corporate chairman will allay fears "that we're ill-suited as DSL providers of the modern Internet." The geriatric chairman shuffles to the lectern and haltingly reads a statement written for him (we assume) by the flack: "Rest assured we are jiggy—jiggy?—with the phat, fly, funk-o-delic Internet lifestyle." The reporters look as baffled to hear these words as the chairman is to speak them. "Don't believe it," warns a male voiceover. "Call Covad. High-speed access is all we do." The spot closes with a female voice saying, "DSL is in our DNA." Will viewers believe their only choice is between an out-of-it conglomerate and the genetically with-it Covad? Not if they watch more than six minutes of television per month, since the airwaves are awash in sales pitches from new (or new-sounding) telecoms. But the DNA line is a catchy one. It brings to life the all-we-do claim, elevating it above the level of puffery and impressing on us that Covad is a genuine specialist. Is it a sin against simplicity to have two voiceovers? In other circumstances, yes. Coming from a company you've barely heard of, though, a second voice soothes suspicions that Covad might be one guy with an ad budget and a spool of cable.