U.S. Cellular “Fireworks”

The beauty of a teaser spot is that it needn’t grab us by the lapels and sell us something. Rather, its mission is to engage our attention and prime us for what’s to come. Odd, then, that many spots in that genre are as plodding as any run-of-the-mill retail commercial. So let’s give due credit to this U.S. Cellular spot (via Publicis & Hal Riney) for daring to be utterly peculiar as it illustrates the concept of the “wake-up call.” There aren’t many commercials in your average viewing day, after all, that show a fuse burning down toward a pile of explosives in a visual sequence that takes you past an array of toasters, a stack of portable TV sets, a vintage record player, a cuckoo clock and other oddities. The downside in this allusive approach — made not much more transparent by a voiceover saying, “We noticed the wireless world needed a change. Consider this its wake-up call” — is that the brand name being introduced is itself pretty opaque. U.S. Cellular is using this spot and other elements in the campaign to draw attention to something it calls The Belief Project, a name that gives little clue to what it encompasses (a rewards program with points, faster phone upgrades, a “one-and-done contract” that doesn’t ensnare you for life, etc.). In other words, the mysterious imagery doesn’t lead you to a moment where you feel, “Ah, so that’s what this is all about.” Indeed, even if you take the bait and go the Web site whose address is given at the end, you’ll still be in the dark until you’ve clicked and read a bit. Under the circumstances, I suspect more than a few viewers will enjoy the commercial’s inventive visuals and leave it at that. –Mark Dolliver