Hey, AT&T, Flagrant Racism and Sexism Are 'Not OK'

One of the several downsides in watching too much football this past weekend was watching too many TV commercials. And although I had grown used to the “stupid white man” trope, now a staple of comic advertising, I was unprepared for AT&T’s impressively racist and sexist “Just OK is not OK” campaign.

The larger message of the campaign is that “when it comes to wireless networks, just OK is not OK.” According to some dubious test, AT&T is allegedly “America’s best network.” To launch this concept, AT&T and its marketing geniuses at the Omnicom Group designed a series of scenarios in which an incompetent white professional or service worker offers his services to a wary customer of color.

A cavalier white male surgeon tells a patient he “just got reinstated… well not officially.” The Hispanic-appearing male who is about to be operated on and his wife react nervously to the surgeon’s proven ineptitude. Lena Waithe, a black lesbian (natch), provides the voiceover, announcing, “Just OK is not OK especially when it comes to your network.” As a stand-alone, this ad is actually pretty amusing. It’s the only one that is. Amazon.com Gift Card i... Buy New $10.00 (as of 08:25 EST - Details)

A goofy-looking white male carnival worker responds to a black mother who asks if the Ferris wheel she is about to ride with her son is safe. “I assembled it myself last night,” he tells her. “I think I did an OK job.” The son then asks, “What if something bad happens?” Says the carnival worker, “We just move to another town.” And yes, Lena tells us, “Just OK is not OK.”

The heavy-set, bald and bearded white male car mechanic responds to a young black man who asks if his shop is good with brakes. “We’re okay,” says the mechanic. “Just okay?” asks the black man. “We have a saying around here,” says the mechanic. “If the brakes don’t stop it. Something will.” Says the customer, “That’s not a real saying.” Says the mechanic, “It is around here. I wrote it.”

The bearded white male interpreter tells his Japanese client that his Dutch is “OK.” Says the Japanese executive, “Just OK?” The interpreter then proceeds to make a comic botch of the Japanese man’s comments to his Dutch trading partners.

“Just leave it to me,” the chubby, slovenly, tax professional tells his pretty black female client. “I’ll get your taxes in an OK place.” In this more ambitious set-up, the accountant reveals himself to be a swindler working under a false name. “I don’t think this is going to work,” says the would-be client who gets up and leaves.

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