The Pitch "How many phones does one man need?" the narrator asks as the camera pans across a line of halter-topped lovelies chatting on their mobiles. The women shimmy in hypnotic slo-mo, with the line ending at a Grace Jones look-alike (circa Conan the Destroyer). And then—Jimmy! A wannabe Hefner in a monogrammed bathrobe, Jimmy's smiling ear-to-ear—not because Grace is rubbing her Spandex-clad naughty bits against his hip, but rather because he has T-Mobile's HotSpot @Home service. Having permanently banished his landline, Jimmy can now dedicate himself full-time to sybaritic pleasures; in another upcoming spot, for example, he hosts a pool party that's wall-to-wall with adoring ladies. Will this putty-jawed lothario lead T-Mobile to the wireless promised land, or does the tongue-in-cheek approach fall flat?
Rip-Off Of Those Bud Light commercials in which schlubby white guys end up dancing in hip-hop videos or hanging by an iced-out rapper's pool. T-Mobile's plotline is different, but the underlying message is the same (as well as the ultimate advertising classic): our product will make you much cooler than you are. Also worth noting that Jimmy is a spitting image of a younger Will Ferrell—say, from his A Night at the Roxbury days. Having formerly employed Catherine Zeta-Jones as a spokesmodel, perhaps T-Mobile came to the conclusion that it's far cheaper and equally effective to simply go the celeb-impersonator route.
The Spin The humor here is pitched toward the demographic that figures to adopt HotSpot @Home in the early going: post-collegiate consumers who are finally paying their own phone bills, and realize that landlines are doomed. These folks have probably already made the switch to VoIP, but even that's too expensive and redundant; they want to use a cell only, but minute caps kill them (even with those nifty Fave 5s and Alltel Circles). Expect future "Jimmy's House" ads to tout the fact that HotSpot @Home users can also hop on Starbucks' Wi-Fi network, and thus take advantage of unlimited calling while getting hopped up on overpriced caffeine.
Counterspin Really poor execution on the campaign's online component. The commercial advises interested parties to visit TheOnlyPhoneYouNeed.com, which features perhaps the most unilluminating Flash demo in recorded history. Why, for example, doesn't the demo answer the most obvious questions a halfway tech-savvy consumer will have: do I need to use T-Mobile's router, or can I keep my old one? And what's the service's deal with text messaging (i.e. are they still gonna charge you extra for texting, even when using your home Wi-Fi network)? Also, getting back to the television ad, will Jimmy start to grate after his second or third appearance? When jokey pitchmen work, they work great (see: the Geico Caveman); when they fail, nothing is more irritating.
Takeaway T-Mobile is targeting exactly the right demographic, and there's no question that wireless service providers should be making a more aggressive play to dinosaur landlines. But as our own Wilson Rothman recently noted, T-Mobile is debuting HotSpot @Home with a pretty abysmal lineup of handsets—the Nokia 6086 and the Samsung t409 aren't anything to write home about, and that's putting it mildly. Yes, switching to the HotSpot @Home service will save your average VoIP user a good $20-$30 per month. But is that enough savings to get the masses to cancel their Vonage and triple play packages? Perhaps if more phones were on offer, or T-Mobile offered one with high-speed data. For the moment, though, this makes the most sense for families that are still stuck in the copper-wire morass; they can get five lines for $19.99.
Hype-O-Meter 6 (out of 10). Okay, maybe I should grade this a bit lower, given that I didn't find Jimmy's mugging particularly amusing. But, hey, T&A—don't get nearly enough of that in American gadget ads. The rest of the world, though, is a different story—which is why you can expect Hype Sheet to be covering some foreign ads in the very, very near future.