Comcast Oz Ad Receives High Praise

AdWeek: "one of the more beautiful campaigns of the year."

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We told you Friday about Comcast’s Oscar-night ad featuring a blind girl’s imagining of The Wizard of Oz with the help of Xfinity’s “talking guide” TV services for the blind, and (as predicted) it drew a lot of attention.

Some of the reaction…

AdWeek calls the spot its “ad of the day:”

The spot, which alone is a wonderful mix of palpable emotion and impeccable craft, is supported by lots of online materials that show the whole backstory. There are videos introducing Emily, showing her describe her Oz in much greater detail, and highlighting the craftsmanship that went into building the physical manifestation of what she imagines.

The website, EmilysOz.com, also offers more information about the technology behind Comcast’s accessibility services.

All in all, it’s one of the more beautiful campaigns of the year so far.

The Wall Street Journal notes the ad is an unusual effort for Comcast:

Typical 60-second spots for the Academy Awards tend to go for $4 million apiece. While the cable giant tends to buy regional ad spots to hawk its promotions, Comcast says it’s going national with this ad because it wants to spark a broader conversation about improving the entertainment experience for disabled people. The company believes the talking guide could not only help those who are blind, but also seniors and people with reading disabilities.

Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts has been personally involved in the effort. The voiceover for the ad was done by Robert Redford, the famous actor who is also a personal friend of Ralph Roberts, the founder of Comcast. “I’m incredibly moved by what our engineers have created with the talking guide and couldn’t be more proud of how the team has brought Emily’s story to life,” Mr. Roberts said in an email.

It’s unlikely that the talking guide will be a game-changer for Comcast’s core business. There are about 8 million people who have a visual disability, according to a 2012 U.S. Census Bureau report. But Comcast does think that developing accessibility products can help the company innovate and create new technology that may have wider applicability. It also doesn’t hurt to have some feel-good products out in the market as Comcast goes through a strenuous regulatory review for its $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable.

The New York Post also sees the ad as a play to soften opposition to Comcast’s proposed merger:

Philadelphia-based Comcast, which boasts the biggest corporate lobbying operation in Washington after spending a reported $17 million last year, is showing a kinder, gentler side to the public as it tries to overcome deepening skepticism about the merits of combining the country’s two largest cable-TV providers.

A growing number of naysayers now doubt the deal, which many thought would sail through regulatory channels when it was first announced, will pass scrutiny.

In particular, there is concern about how much control the combined company would have over Internet access — or nearly 57 percent of US broadband market share under new government standards — and how much it could charge customers.

“This is going to be a very close call,” said one source who is watching the deal closely. “The process [of approval] is really slowing.”

Mashable, though, figures Comcast just wanted to change the subject:

Comcast attempted to counter some of the bad press it has received of late with a 60-second ad during Sunday night’s Academy Awards presentation that envisioned how The Wizard of Oz “looks” to a girl who can’t see.

The television spot, which is said to have cost around $4 million to air, comes after Comcast changed a customer’s name to “Asshole” and another to “SuperBitch” in recent billing statements. Comcast also won The Consumerist’s Worst Company award last year.

Mashable’s conjecture is pretty unlikely. The cost and production values of the ad mean it was approved and under way long before the recent name-calling controversies — it’s the merger that remains the top priority for the company.

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