Covad DSL Cultivates a Hip, Down-to-Earth Image

Covad, a provider of digital subscriber line (DSL) Internet access, this week launches a TV and print campaign from Young & Rubicam that positions the firm as a hip alternative to stodgy telephone companies and deflates grandiose claims about the Internet.

The campaign, via Y&R’s San Francisco office, builds on last fall’s $40 million inaugural effort. That work sought to explain what DSL is. Satisfied that most people now know, Covad is shying away from such an explanatory approach this time around.

One new spot offers a pointed criticism of Covad’s big-name competitors. In it, an aging phone company chairman, in a pitiful attempt to show he’s as hip as the next guy, uses modern youth slang words like “jiggy,” “phat” and “funkadelic” during a press conference on DSL.

The other spots lampoon highfalutin promises about the Internet. As a heroic-sounding voice talks of the Internet providing “the wealth of mankind’s knowledge,” a quartet of Web surfers is shown. Three seem to substantiate the claim, while a fourth plays a video game.

Ad placement includes network TV buys in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, complemented by cable buys on CNN, ESPN, The Discovery Channel and CNBC. The new tagline, “DSL is in our DNA,” replaces last year’s “The Internet as it should be.”

Print ads in Rolling Stone, The Industry Standard, Fortune and other magazines remind readers that Covad can help them get anywhere on the Net, including a hamster taxidermy site and a site featuring intestinal surgery.

Katie Barnie, creative director at Y&R, said Santa Clara, Calif.-based Covad is looking to raise some hackles with the new campaign.

“They really wanted to do work that wasn’t conservative,” she said. “We were allowed to take things a step further.”