Bad Commercials: Vonage

I don't usually see a lot of TV commercials. My trusty TiVo makes sure of that. Every once in a while I happen to be watching "live TV," and I have to deal with a commercial or two.

As someone who watches too much TV, I'm used to tuning out the commercials. I go into zombie mode (more-so than when the actual TV show is on), but at the end of each commercial, I'm usually left with a vague idea of what it was about. It might only be a small turd of information, and it probably gets swept away quickly, but I still have the feeling that I saw something.

This does not happen when a recent Vonage commercial comes on. At the end of each commercial, I am left with a completely blank slate, as if no message was delivered during those 30 seconds. I only notice it because of the lack of turds left in my brain. And I only know it's a Vonage commercial because I can rewind on my trusty TiVo.

This series of commercials follow this general pattern: Someone in the foreground is telling you about the service, but in the background there's something "crazy" going on, like a guy in a lobster suit stuck in a revolving door, or some nude people working on their garden. Whatever's going on in the background has nothing to do with the Vonage service, but it completely grabs your attention.

And it's at that point that you tune out the person making the pitch about the service, and focus only on the background. The end result is that you have no idea, at all, what the commercial you just saw was about. It might have been entertaining, but the message is completely lost.

You might say that the fact I'm writing about this means it was a successful commercial, but the only reason I can write about it is because I used my TiVo to rewind. I can imagine that many people don't realize what they just saw, and just move on with their lives. It's only because I noticed this void so many times that I started to wonder what was going on.

The end result is that Vonage is spending tons of money on advertising and not getting their money's worth. It also cost a lot of people money in the recent IPO, has forced Vonage to go after their own customers, and are now facing a lawsuit over it. Most of the money Vonage raised will go back into advertising. Hopefully they hire a better PR firm and it will all be worth it.

I used to be a Vonage customer, and while I had it I loved the service. It has a lot of features, great prices, and I almost never had any problems. The only reason I cancelled is because I switched to using my cell phone as my main number. If I need a home phone in the future, I will definitely use Vonage again.

Vonage is facing an uphill battle, and the slope seems to be getting steeper every day. Cable companies are moving into their territory, not to mention Skype, and it's only a matter of time before the traditional telcos wake up and change their business model. On top of that, they need to convince consumers who have been using traditional phone lines for the past 100 years to switch to a new service. They shouldn't also be creating their own speed bumps by using some of the worst advertising tactics I've ever seen.