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The Logitech QuickCam


By Brendan I. Koerner

The Pitch Various real-life folks—as opposed to actors—teleconference with the aid of Logitech's QuickCam. In one spot, a father and daughter make playful farting noises while mommy, presumably on a business trip, semi-disapprovingly watches on her laptop; in another, an aging frat boy reluctantly takes yoga instruction from his girlfriend, and "hilarious" hijinks ensue. All the ads, several of which can be peeped at this Flash-intensive website, end with a simple tagline: "Video calling made easy."

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Rip-Off Of Those "groundbreaking" Dockers commercials in which average blokes waxed rhapsodic on the topic of loose-fit khakis. Or perhaps those truly odious Yoplait commercials in which two New Age-ish ladies trade hyperbolic statements about their yogurt. Remember? "This is favorite-song-on-the-radio good!" Sorry, didn't mean to conjure up such awful, awful memories.

The Spin The message here is pretty straightforward: teleconferencing ain't just for business tycoons anymore. Ignited Minds, Logitech's ad firm, put the QuickCam in the hands of some "real" people and let them chat away, hoping that genuine moments of affection and merriment would be captured. I'm not sure if father-daughter faux flatulence qualifies as such, but there's definitely an earnest quality to the interactions depicted. And the image quality sure looks spiffy, doesn't it? Guess I shouldn't have dropped $800 on that Ojo Personal Video Phone from SkyMall, eh?

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Counterspin I can totally see how a new parent might dig watching their tyke master the art of the Bronx Cheer. But learning yoga positions from my girlfriend? Or any other non-parental (or grandparental) application? That's a bit harder to fathom, at least if porn isn't going to be involved. The knock on personal videoconferencing has always been that no one wants to comb their hair just to make a phone call. Is that a truism, or just some Luddite naysaying? Also, the ads could probably use do a wee bit more extolling of the QuickCam's user friendliness. The tagline says it's easy, but Joe Q. Public might be checking out those laptop rigs and thinking, "Y'know, I'll just stick with my Nextel push-to-talk, thank you very much."

Takeaway A solid-yet-unsexy effort from a solid-yet-unsexy company, and one that obviously didn't want to spend a lot on a TV campaign. (Logitech's entire 2004 ad budget was just $8.3 million.) The ads have a pleasantly candid quality, and some emotional softies will doubtless be tempted to set up QuickCam chats with their loved ones. But I'm still not entirely convinced that video-enhanced phone calls are about to break wide; for that to happen, the phone companies will have to offer startup kits, just as cable companies have advanced the DVR revolution by handing out those set-top boxes. No matter how many times Logitech says "Video calling made easy," it's not going to be quite easy enough for the masses—at least until Logitech partners with Verizon, or Vonage, or whoever else sees the forest rather than the trees.

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Hype-O-Meter 6.5 (out of 10); earnest and effective, but not exactly something that'll stick in the ol' memory bank.

Brendan I. Koerner is a contributing editor at Wired and a columnist for both The New York Times and Slate. His Hype Sheet column appears every other Wednesday on Gizmodo.

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