It is Super Bowl week. There are lots of ads. Several of them feature celebrities. I’d like to talk about marketing-evasion.
My mom, like many members of the square-TV generation, didn’t hop on the smart-phone bandwagon until a year or two ago. As if to make up for lost time, she keeps her device within arm’s reach around the clock. Texts and emails get returned in a matter of seconds; she’s quicker on the draw than any Millennial. It would not surprise me to learn that she constructed a water-sealed pod in her shower to house her beloved implement of connectivity.
Most of the time this isn’t an issue, because (spoiler alert) I haven’t lived under the same roof as my mommy, who I love very much, for a decade or two. But when she’s over for dinner, it can be a problem, owing to (tight-ass alert) my strict no-screens-during-meals policy. So when telemarketers got wise to her digits, the dinner hour assumed the sonic character of an arcade.
Going against my usual response mechanism in such situations, I endeavored to find a technological solution to this problem. Lo and behold, one was right at hand: Nomorobo, which intercepts robocalls through some kind of third-party diversion or intervention or disappearing potion. I don’t quite understand the mechanics, but it works. Mom’s phone now only peeps 12 or 13 times per meal, owing to the huge volume of texts from Mrs. Leader and Aunt Janie, who I also love very much, but that’s a problem for another day.
Prior to a few weeks ago, Nomorobo was defined by its service offering - which is fine, especially since the service offering is so darn useful. In the wake of its first two quick-hit brand-video dealies, however, it’s clear that the Nomorobo folks aren’t content to be viewed as mysterious tech nerds, zapping phone invaders from a remote and untraceable location somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere.
In fact, Nomorobo has quite the impish streak, which informs its first proudly low-fi steps into the world of branding. Who knew? It’s like finding out that a staid coworker moonlights as a Teletubby-for-hire when he’s off the clock. (Unrelated: Could the name of Nomorobo’s parent company, Telephone Science Corp., sound any more like a stealth governmental entity?)
If I were to attempt to identify Nomorobo’s creative muses, I’d point to the Jerky Boys. In the first clip, “Talkin’ to Telemarketers - Episode #1,” a “sick” “patient” responds to a robo-pitch for final-expense insurance by attempting to make a deathbed purchase. The guy isn’t all that convincing - his mark ends the call with “you are not a very good actor” - but there’s some small measure of sticking-it-to-the-scammer vindication to be enjoyed. In the second video, “Robo-Newt Gingrich during the 2014 election,” the company crudely animates a political robocall-to-arms that practically begs for such juvenile treatment.
The videos probably cost around $130 to make, yet they succeed in branding Nomorobo as a defiant fly in the telemarketing ointment. Telephone Science Corp. isn’t an advocacy group; its minions aren’t chasing Joseph Konythrough the jungle or attempting to even the consumer/corporation balance of power. But there’s a similar spirit of “let’s right a wrong” that flows through each branded clip (and no, I’m not equating the annoyances inflicted by telemarketers with the miseries inflicted by Kony and his crew).
As of 4:06 p.m. ET on Thursday, the two Nomorobo videos had been viewed a total of 4,379 times. Let’s see if we can’t leverage the collective clicking might of the Video Critique audience and drive that number deep into the 4,380s. Who’s with me?