These are two of a series of ads featuring continuing characters, Frank and Charlie on behalf of AT&T.
AT&T apparently was envious of Verizon, which personified itself for nine years with the “Can you hear me now?” guy.
AT&T feared that people perceived it as a massive, impersonal corporation. To make AT&T feel more human and approachable, enter Frank, the seasoned AT&T network expert, and his partner, Charlie, the rookie AT&T network expert.
The use of characters to personify AT&T makes sense if the characters communicate desirable qualities of the brand. Frank and Charlie do humanize AT&T, and they seem to embody the qualities of determination and eagerness. But Frank and Charlie communicate a lot more because, to viewers, Frank’s and Charlie’s behavior is viewers’ best information about how AT&T itself would behave. Frank and Charlie have difficulty pulling off a normal handshake. Charlie has a strange obsession with Feng Shui. And Frank doesn’t like having any partner much less this partner. Besides the humanity and approachability of AT&T, Frank and Charlie make viewers wonder about the capability of ATT&T’s network “experts.” Viewers have to be imagining dealing with Frank and Charlie when they think about talking to AT&T.
The ad feels like a large brand attempting to catch up with a competitor’s strategy rather than making the most of its advantages.