Have you ever sat down in front of the television, ready to view some good old-fashioned commercials, and suddenly found yourself being assaulted by a barrage of unfamiliar language from a smug repairman who gets his jollies by constantly reminding himself that his years of training give him technical expertise over a child? Because if you have, then you’ve seen the commercial Verizon has been running for their reasonably new service which offers television, internet, and telephone services all over one magical fiber optic cable which should currently be running right along your curb (like an untapped resource of gold, don’t you know!)
So why do I hate this commercial so? Well, as someone very interested in technology, I consider myself to have a grasp on the current jargon as well as most others. This commercial, however, threw me for a loop. I knew that if I didn’t understand what was being said, then very few TV viewers had any idea what they were hearing either. This method of better-than-you marketing felt like a thorn in my side, and I knew I had to do something about it. The American people don’t deserve to be mocked by those trying to sell things to us, so I present to you a guide: What is actually being said in the Verizon FiOS commercial.
I’m going to go through the script chunk by chunk and break down what you have just heard, so feel free to follow along in the video above or just read aloud to yourself (make sure to feign a sense of self-achievement when playing the part of the Verizon guy).
Ext. House, morning. Jeremy Brandt, the Verizon tech, approaches as a little boy, played by Raymond Ochoa, plays on the sidewalk.
Boy: Are you the cable guy?
Man: Actually I’m a Verizon FiOS tech, I bring fiber optics right to your door…
At this point, he has explained to the child more than he needs to know. He is not the cable guy, he works for Verizon. Rather than cable, he installs and repairs a fiber optics network. This information is lost on a child, but don’t think that means he is stopping.
Man: …On three different spectrums of light…
As he quickly begins into the spiel, the child has no doubt glazed over with confusion and boredom, just like most of us at home. Fiber optics, for those who don’t know, is not your usual copper cable. It is a special material where data is transmitted through light. Very important technology, but not really the stuff folks are talking about around the water cooler.
Man: You got your 1310, your 1490, and the 1550.
Hardly anything to brag about here. What he is spouting is the wavelengths of the different lights carrying the various pieces of data. 1310 nm is used for all upstream data that you are sending out to the world, like uploaded photos or your voice on the telephone. 1490 nm is the wavelength allocated for downstream content. That is anything you download to your computer, any incoming voice over the phone, and IPTV. Finally, you have the spectrum used for the television channels, 1550. All of these wavelengths are totally industry standard, and any provider will use the exact same. So why did Verizon feel like they had to run them off quickly here? Because they are big numbers, and when said in rapid succession they create the illusion that something confusing is happening and your only reaction can be “Ooh, fancy, me wanty numbers.” Don’t get sucked in, remember that all these numbers have no real meaning and are nothing out of the ordinary.
Man: And the light is so clean it’s +20 dB hot.
This is the one that still has me on the ropes. Reading this site about fiber optics jargon just leaves me with what I already knew; dB is a unit of measurement for optical power. I believe that they are trying to use this line to brag about the power of their signal because of how clean it all is. That means that with nice splices and no nasty stuff in the wires, there is a lot less data lost on the trip from A to B. No one, and I mean no one, uses to word “hot” in that context. And if they do, they’ve never talked about it on the internet. That seems to be jargon invented by the good people at Verizon to take something that could have been explained nicely or just avoided and turn it into a symbol of their employees functioning on a different level than you.
Man: It’s true QAM (pronounced “kwam,” apparently).
This is the most popular line of the entire commercial. The first time I saw it, his phrasing made me wonder “Is that like the new cool thing people in the IT industry are saying now?” I honestly thought that “True quam, man” was how people in-the-know expressed themselves when they were impressed with something. It’s not.
It is an acronym for Quadrature Amplitude Modulation. I know, now I sound like one of them, but I had to get that out there. Simply put, it’s the common way of transmitting a digital television broadcast. QAM tuners are present in many TVs and make it possible to watch local channels’ HD broadcasts without needing to purchase a set-top box. According to Wikipedia, most digital and HD channels are now being transmitted through QAM. With FiOS, if you choose not to get a set-top box, you will get 15 channels. Hardly worth it if you are paying for everything else, right? I doubt anyone who is getting this new service is neglecting to get anything beyond local broadcasts, so why does this QAM issue even come up if its presence is ultimately trivial? Because, once again, it sounds like something a techie would say. It makes viewers think “Geez, these guys really have their fancy-talk down pat, I sure would like me some quams too.” Don’t be fooled, you are probably already getting “true QAM” without having someone look down their nose to tell you, so forget they even mentioned it.
Kid: (pauses) Nice Truck.
Completely dumbfounded, all the kid can do is be adorable. I know how you feel, Ray. I know how you feel. It’s almost like the good people at Verizon are using a naive child to symbolize us, the viewing public, and to get a cheap laugh out of our confusion. The laugh, of course, is right in your big fat face because you didn’t know what they were talking about.
End scene with insane explosion of light coming out of truck and a choir of angels singing. This symbolizes that the Verizon tech is not a human, but rather a creature sent from heaven above to grace us with his otherwordly knowledge of jargon.
In writing all of this, I do not mean to say that I dislike Verizon FiOS. While I disagree with their tiered internet service, I do admire the speeds that can be achieved, as well as the big push in fiber optical technology that this is bringing about. I also have no problem with Jeremy Brandt, who played the Verizon guy AND was cool enough to upload his own commercial to YouTube (as well as leave comments). I think that takes guts, and he’s just an actor. He isn’t doing anything other than what they told him. The people I have beef with, so to speak, is the advertisers and executives who gave this piece of trash the green light. Trying to outsmart your customers is never a good idea, and making a commercial where you prove your superiority is just downright obnoxious. Even the cutest kid in LA can’t stop this smarmy spot from making me mad every time I see it; but hopefully now the word will spread, and soon we’ll let Verizon know that they can’t make fools of us with their pseudo-jargon! We will rebel not with the sword, but with the blog! Knowledge will be our key in defeating this telecommunications juggernaut once and for all! Who’s with me?
Sorry, but it’s really late and I’m getting all riled up because I’ve got to release some energy before bed. But seriously–now you know, and next time you see this commercial be sure to let everyone in the room know what is up. Spread the good word.