Time Warner “Same Number”

In a city like Buffalo, N.Y., which globalization has not treated kindly, there’s no hero like a local hero. TV spots there for Time Warner Cable phone service (by Stand Advertising of nearby Amherst) make the most of that fact-a shrewd way of addressing consumers in one of the rustiest places in the Rust Belt.

In one set of commercials (airing as paired :15s), the opening salvo features Rob Ray, a longtime Buffalo Sabres hockey player (and current Sabres broadcaster) who was famous for his on-ice fighting style. We first see him wearing what looks like a blue-and-yellow Sabres jersey with his old number 32 on it, but someone then hands him a red jersey also numbered 32. As he dons the new jersey, a voiceover praises Time Warner’s Home Phone service. One of its features: You can keep the same number even as you switch from your old phone company-a point emphasized, as Ray turns toward the camera, by the words “Keep the same number” on the front of his jersey.

The other 15 seconds feature Buffalo Bills wide receiver Roscoe Parish shaking off a defender to make a catch, and then showing that the football has the words “Great reception” printed on it.

Are these spots a little hokey? Yes, they are. But outsiders think it’s hokey (at best) to live in Buffalo, while those who’ve hung on there (the population is half what it was 50 years ago) must think otherwise. There’s also something counterintuitive in Time Warner’s trying to position itself as a local favorite. Then again, it’s so rare for outsiders to say anything nice about Buffalo that the locals might especially enjoy seeing a big corporation do so.–Mark Dolliver