copyright 2008 by Gary L. Pullman
Advertisers are a creative bunch. They use all sorts of persons, places, and things to sell us everything from aardvarks to zoo trips. Well, maybe not aardvarks. Not yet, anyway. More-or-less captured audiences hate most “commercial breaks,” although they are somewhat fond of a select few “messages from our sponsors.” One commercial that is apt to be tolerable, if not actually fun, for horror fans is Verizon’s latest series of advertisements that feature areas of poor or non-existent cellular telephone transmission and reception, known, in the commercials, as “dead zones.”
In one such ad, as a man heads from his apartment to the laundry room in his building, basket in hand, walking along a dimly lit hallway, a pair of young boys, dressed in nineteenth-century-style suits, speak in an eerie monotone: “Hey, mister, are you going to the laundry room?"
Looking hesitant, he replies, "I was."
The boys then say, "It’s a dead zone. Reception is terrible."
The man replies, “I have the Verizon network,” whereupon a host of the company’s employees appears behind the man, one assuring their customer, “You’re good.”
The boys exchange an uneasy look before turning, they walk away, down the corridor.
The text, “Don’t Be Afraid of DEAD ZONES” appears over the backs of the retreating boys.
The scene is reminiscent of The Shining, and its use of the phrase “dead zone” recalls another of Stephen King’s novels, The Dead Zone.
The host of Verizon company’s employees plays on the idea of there being safety in numbers. Their service neutralizes the threat of “dead zones.” Who wouldn’t want such heroes around in such a threatening environment?
A number of similar ads, using horror themes or allusions to horror movies, appear as installments in the series. A family moves into a creepy neighborhood, only to be warned by their neighbor (a woman who looks as if she’s just stepped out of her coffin) that they’ve moved into a “dead zone.” The last occupants of their new house, she warns them, “went crazy trying to find a signal there.” The Verizon team appears, and she looks frightened. All she can warn them against, now, is the crabgrass growing in their yard.
The ads are designed, it seems, to resemble theatrical trailers, which certainly gets television viewers’ interest, especially if such audience members also happen to enjoy horror movies.
Sex, it has long been established, sells. So, apparently, does horror.
Kudos to a company for creating ads that are both eerie and enjoyable.