Ads Watch: AT&T Summoner or “Romantic Dinner”

2 Feb

I haven’t talked that much about commercials yet, but when I did I made points about how commercials, more than any other form (maybe sketch comedy is the closest), because they’re so short, are so dependent on tiny little quirks of acting and writing that aren’t always obvious until the whole thing is put together, but help raise the commercial up above the norm.   A perfect example of this is AT&T’s thirty second commercial called “Romantic Dinner.”  This isn’t conceptually brilliant by any means.  It’s pretty basic actually, and like a lot of these ads, it’s three of four different words or motions or looks away from not necessarily being awful (though it could be) but at least being unmemorable.  Instead, it’s good.  The two actors both play their parts sublimely in the ad, but the male especially makes the words “summon” and “summoner” minorly hystrerical.  But, we’ll get to that.  Let’s start at the beginning.

An African-American couple (maybe low 30s – I’m terrible with ages) is eating dinner at a classy restaurant.  The woman remarks how nice it is to spend sometime with just the two of them, and the man agrees.  The woman begins another sentence, seemingly focusing further on how they should spend more time together, when she notices the man glance quickly downwards.  She gives him an accusatory look and asks if he checked the game on his phone.  Here’s where it gets good.  The man gives the best line of the ad, responding  “What, no, what am I, like some kind of summoner who can summon footage to his phone like that?”  The best part is when his eyes grow large as he says “summoner” with a disbelieving look, as to show how crazy she is for even thinking he has this capability.  He then says, as he’s finishing, “come on,” in a perfect gimme-a-break manner.

Obviously the explanation was sufficient and clear enough to make the woman doubt her initial conclusions, and feel bad about them.  She says, “I guess I’m just a little oversensitive.”  Between “little” and “oversensitive,” the man makes a quick indecipherable shouting noise.  The women ignores and moves forward, “it’s just that you and I.”  At this point, the man exclaims a clearly decipherable, “Yes!” but then just acts as if nothing happens, continuing to look at his date as before.  There they stare at each other, with the implication that the jig is up, but the man makes absolutely no acknowledgement of it, until after a slightly awkward second, the commercial fades into a shot of the game streaming on the man’s phone, and then a white screen with some information about AT&T.

I admit this is a perfect example of where a written description ruins the magic, but let me try to emphasize the individual pieces that make it wonderful.  The accent from the man on the words “summon” and “summoner.”  The look throughout that whole line, particularly the large eyes, and the “come on,” at the end.  The way the woman is genuinely concerned she’s been overly sensitive, even though she’s completely right, and the way the commercial ends at exactly the right time, not going on any longer than it needs to to make it’s point.  Ending at the right the time can never be underestimated, and many a sketch can learn from it.

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