Originally Published: Tuesday, 7 September 1999 Author: Sydney Weidman
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Linux Superbowl TV Spot Take One...

A couple of days ago on Slashdot, a reader suggested that buying a 30-second commercial during the Superbowl might be a way to really launch Linux into the new millennium. I figured that since everybody else has now submitted an official script, I ought to try my hand at it....

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A couple of days ago on Slashdot, a reader suggested that buying a 30-second commercial during the Superbowl might be a way to really launch Linux into the new millennium. I figured that since everybody else has now submitted an official script, I ought to try my hand at it.

It's strange to try and sell Linux in the artificial world of advertising. When I imagine a Linux TV commercial, it seems as if everything has to be hyperbole. But then that's what advertising is all about. Are we sure we want to go down this path? Let's imagine some possibilities:

The Linux Superbowl Commercial: Take One...

"We'll be back with more of our pre-game show right after this message from our sponsor, Red Hat Software..."

The scene: Fade in an office desk basking in the blue glow of a computer screen. It's late, obviously after hours. In front of the computer sits an LA Law -type guy, looking tired, overworked. He's on the phone telling someone that he's almost finished and he'll be home soon. He hangs up the phone and begins typing again when suddenly --

(cut to over-the-shoulder shot looking at the computer screen)

Guy (reading the screen) : "The system is busy or has become unstable. Press any key to continue or Ctrl-Alt-Delete to restart. Oh no, not now -- please don't let this happen now!"

Voice over: "How many times has this happened to you? Hours of work, gone forever. Don't gamble with your work -- trust it to Red Hat Linux."

(Cut to quick shot of Red Hat box, disk, and manuals)

Voice over: "Linux runs some of the fastest, most reliable computing systems in the world."

(quick cuts showing computers, high-tech assembly line, and a big workstation with some 3d drawings on the screen)

Voice over: "And now you can put this power and reliability to work for you. Red Hat Linux is easy to install and it comes with all the software you need to get your work done."

(screen shot of the Gnome Desktop)

"Word processors..."

(quick screen shot of Corel WordPerfect)

"...spreadsheets..."

(Gnumeric screen shot)

"...database, e-mail... "

(show a friendly little "You've got mail" animation)

"...and internet ready applications like Netscape Communicator."

(screen shot or logo)

"-- all for much less than you would expect. It even comes with 30 days of free telephone support..."

(quick shot of a smiling, youngish, friendly-looking woman with a telephone headset on -- like you might see in an American Express ad)

"...and 90 days of e-mail support."

(Cut back to the man in the office. He's on the phone again, panic stricken, talking to technical support)

Guy : "I've lost everything -- can't someone there help me?" (Click... dial-tone)

(Fade or Cut to Shadow Man logo)

Voice over continues: "Red Hat Linux -- unbeatable reliability and power at an unbeatable price."

/* End script 1. Note to self: Find out if TV commercial scripts have the same comment syntax as C */

The Linux Superbowl Commercial: Take Two...

"We'll be back with more of our pre-game show right after this message from our sponsor, Red Hat Software..."

The scene: The locker room of one of the teams in the Superbowl. Some mean looking defensive lineman has just come in off the field. He takes off his helmet and faces the camera.

DL: "When the game is on the line I don't have time for players that don't give 100 percent. I come to play day in and day out and I expect the same from everyone on my team. There's no such thing as downtime when you want to win. Computers are no different. They gotta play or get outta my way. That's why my computer is powered by Red Hat Linux. Now my computer will run for months without crashing and I can depend on it just like I depend on my teammates. Isn't it time you switched to Linux?"

Voice Over: "Red Hat Linux -- the world's most reliable computing, made simple."

(Red Hat box and books with Shadow Man logo)

/* End script 2 */

The Linux Superbowl Commercial: Take Three...

(In this one, the penguin is the Linux equivalent of the Maytag Repair Man)

"We'll be back with more of our pre-game show right after this message from our sponsor, Red Hat Software..."

Two large penguins sit in the stands having a beer watching the football game. One by one all the people around them get urgent pager messages and leave hurriedly.

(Lap dissolve to some time later)

Penguins are still sitting enjoying the game, having some popcorn. The seats around them are deserted now -- everyone else has been called away by emergencies.

Penguin 1: "Where'd everybody go?"

Penguin 2: "Servers crashed again, I guess."

Penguin 1: "Ahh, I really miss the good old days."

(Pause. They look at each other)

Both: "NOT!!"

(penguins high five -- heavy techno thrash music -- penguins dance wildly)

Voice over: "Let Red Hat Linux run your servers. After all, you've got better things to do."

/* End script 3 */

I could live with a Superbowl TV commercial but I can't help feeling that the Superbowl stands for everything Linux does not want to be: overblown hype, form over substance, and a gigantic complicit wink at the powers that be. The beauty and power of Linux is that it is removed from the push and pull of Madison Avenue.

Maybe this is what the commercial ought to be:

Linux Superbowl Commercial: Take Four...

The scene: Penguin chained and shackled to office divider. Looks up from his desk mournfully. He goes back to typing something over and over. (close up of computer screen which reads:)

"I love big brother"
"I love big brother"
"I love big brother"
"I love big brother"...

Fade to black.

Sydney Weidman is not a professional script writer. He is a student of Philosophy and Political Computing at the University of Winnipeg in Canada.





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