“Cadbury should eat a dick, I hate that ad,” my girlfriend said as I was cooking a green curry. That got me thinking about bad advertising. Yeah, I hate that ad as well, but for no reason other than it annoys the hell out of me. You know, the one with the eyebrows. The sequel to the gorilla ad that sent Phil Collins to the top of the charts again (honestly though – I just can’t believe people went out and bought that single again. Didn’t they have the Miami Vice series soundtrack?). Generally, I’m fairly happy about that particular style of advertising.

No, it’s the misleading and downright outrageous advertising I want to talk about. And I have done before. I probably will do again. I was spurred into pre-action this time by a tweet (which, I’m sorry, I can’t seem to find) that linked to a New Zealand blog (which I now can’t remember, I’m terrible) about bad advertising. The latest post was about the Richard Hammond Telecom XT Network adverts, in particular the first one, which “proved” XT’s comprehensive coverage by recording some voices in a studio and pasting them over some pictures of a stuntwoman in various places that.

Yep, that was bad, but I just can’t believe the latest one. Hammond doesn’t want to talk about Telecom’s pricing plan (I wouldn’t either, it’s extremely expensive. I’m not defending Vodafone NZ, in New Zealand, we get roofied and violated with a chandelier the minute we pick up a cellphone). He wants to show you that the XT mobile network can deliver a picture faster than a jet sprint boat can go around the course.

Now, I’ve had a look at the New Zealand jet sprint boat racing siteand it looks like a good, fast result for a lap on a course like that is about 49 seconds. Now, the maximum specified downlink speed for a 3G network is 14.4Mbps, maximum uplink 5.7Mbps, and Telecom has this to say about XT:

The new network supports average speeds of 3Mbps downlink and 1Mbps uplink and peak download speeds will be 14.4Mbps downlink and 5.7Mbps uplink.

Now, in real terms, at peak you might transfer 84.11Mb downstream and 33.29Mb upstream in 49 seconds; at the average speed you might get 17.5Mb downstream and 5.84Mb upstream.

OK. So let’s assume that the picture that gets sent is 1Mb (which it almost certainly isn’t, but I can’t be bothered trying to find Telecom’s maximum dimensions for a picture in an MMS). At the average network speed, and allowing for some time lost in the dark places between in the middle between the sender’s phone and the receiver’s phone, this isn’t really even a competition. Or at least, you’d think not. But the advert suggests that the boat and the message are almost neck and neck… or fairly close at least. Are they suggesting the network is slower than advertised? That your messages are going to spend a lot of time on Telecom’s servers being inspected by the thought police? That coverage at the sprint circuit is pretty poor and it slows the user down (after all, it would probably be a more remote location than those in the advert that showed off XT’s coverage)?

It’s stupid, and it’s frustrating. Telecom especially annoys me, because I believe a lot of their customers come from a time when we had no choice for telecommunications (by which I mean we had no semblance of a choice; we couldn’t choose the shape of our tormentor). I think (and I have no proof, I’m just speculating) that in much the same way Microsoft Explorer still has users – because it’s the button on your new computer that says “internet” – Telecom gets internet and mobile users because that’s who installed the party line on the farm back in the day. Surely, if you really have a good network, you aim your marketing at nerds and people who actually need good mobile coverage. But this advertising is pure lowest common denominator, using celebrity and whiz-bang imagery but absolutely no substance whatsoever. I’m not alone in this though, as a quick search for discussion about this campaign will show.

Incidentally, I couldn’t find the ads on the Telecom website. Maybe they’re embarrassed.

I don’t have a landline any more and I’m happy about it. I know the money I pay for my naked DSL mostly goes back to them, but I’m happy at least that a small Christchurch company can take a cut on the way through. I’m anything but happy with my mobile service, but these adverts are doing nothing to tempt me over to Telecon, typo intended. All they’re doing for me is eroding what love I may have built up for Hammond watching Top Gear.

Still they’re nowhere near as self-face-punchingly disgusting as that awful ad for Milestone Homes; or as skin-crawlingly vomit-inducing as the TV2 promos for Desperate Housewives that feature middle-aged women with scary looks on their faces jiggling and swarming towards the camera like so many horny zombies. I can’t even lookat that one.