The Pitch Jim, a typical office drone, has apparently switched to Verizon Wireless so he can download AC/DC tunes for his LG Chocolate. (Sorry, I don't know the HTML code for a lightning bolt, so live with the slash.) This not-so-amazing (and, for that matter, not-so-believable) revelation is over and done with by the commercial's 10-second mark; the rest of the ad is taken up with Jim flailing around in Angus Young's trademark schoolboy outfit, like a stand-up comic who really wants an unearned laugh. Oh, yeah, and a nerdy coworker chimes in with an insightful quip—"That's awesome"—before the back-end hype begins. The narrator notes that you can now download AC/DC albums via VCast, as well as "exclusive videos and concert footage." Wow, unfunny and misleading—a lethal combo that makes this ad worthy of derision.

Rip-Off Of The office milieu, complete with goofy coworkers, borrows from Sierra Mist's mildly funny "combover" ad, as well as the likes of Dilbert et al. The very literal interpretation of rock-and-roll fandom, meanwhile, is woefully unimaginative, nicked from those "wacky" Entertainment Tonight segments shot at sci-fi conventions. Note to Verizon: The Angus Young costume gag was funny the first 900 times someone used it for Halloween; 901 broke the camel's back.


The Spin Finally getting AC/DC to sell digital music is, granted, something of a coup; the band has long resisted iTunes entreaties, holding out for a sweetheart deal befitting its broad appeal. (As one of my classic-rocker pals once sagely pointed out, AC/DC had produced some of history's most unobjectionable party music.) Getting AC/DC on VCast, then, is a point in the service's favor, as it strives to become a reason for consumers to switch to Verizon. Sure, we're talking about a band whose glory days were 30 years (and one singer) ago, but can't knock those Back in Black sales—440,000 copies of that classic were purchased last year, all in hard media form.

Counterspin So many sins of omission in this ad. Start with the fact, previously noted on Gizmodo, that only one AC/DC song ("You Shook Me All Night Long") will actually be available for over-the-air download. Aside from that, you can only download full albums (rather than single tracks) to your PC, using the VCast store—yeah, I didn't know it existed either. On top of that, this is a limited-time offer, expiring in March of next year. After that, there's a chance that AC/DC could bolt and sell its back catalog to an even higher bidder—while you've still got months to go on your contract, sucker. But the worst part is the walled garden-ness of it all—just as the internet is becoming truly mobile, Verizon wants to pull us back to a controlled yesteryear? How short-sighted.

Takeaway Does Verizon really believe that exclusive deals like this will lure new customers? I'll wager that 98 percent of the consumers who bought Back in Black in '06 were teenagers, a demographic that either lets their folks pick the cell plan, or just go for pre-paid deals. Beyond that, the advantages here are meager—the albums still cost $12, whether you're getting a classic or one of the newer, dreckier ones. (Stiff Upper Lip is every bit as disappointing as it sounds.) Okay, so there will be some exclusive concert clips and the like. But at this point in AC/DC's evolution, I'd like to think that anyone who really cares 'bout such things gets their video fixes from the web; AC/DC is musical comfort food, not a band that folks are just dying to keep tabs on 24/7. Verizon would be well-advised to start thinking about how to partner with existing digimusic services, like AT&T has done with eMusic. I just can't see VCast being the future, no matter how much the online store gets beefed up.

Hype-O-Meter 2 (out of 10). This ad avoids a lower rating simply because, hey, I like AC/DC's early work (i.e. before Bon Scott's untimely demise; High Voltage is particularly awesome). But otherwise, this commercial's a cheap and deceptive stab at propping up a dying approach to technology.


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 Thursday on Gizmodo.

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