It’s only 30 seconds long, but a new Spectrum Mobile TV commercial is packed with enough sexism-countering messages to fuel a graduate-school thesis or two. The ad wants to tell you how smart it is to save 40 percent on your mobile phone bill by switching to Spectrum’s nationwide 5G service, and it uses a relatable, older female scientist to make the point.
Here’s the set up: The scientist walks into her lab, and excitedly tells two younger colleagues about her new phone. “It’s literally the smartest thing I’ve ever done,” she says as she unpacks the box. The male technician says, looking up from his work, “You split an atom with a soda bottle and two straws.” The scientist replies, “Oh yeah, that was kind of an accident.”
The female technician then reminds her that she discovered the 10th planet. “I mean, that was just a little bit of calculus,” the scientist responds, holding up a thumb and forefinger a couple of inches apart. “You found a cure for hiccups,” the younger woman says again. The scientist is not biting. “I’ve got Nationwide 5G and I’m saving 40 percent? Come on,” she says. And then she abruptly stops. “Oh, I figured out time travel,” she says holding up a piece of paper, “so we’re gonna get nuts later.”
Why This Spectrum Ad is Brilliant
So here are the four reasons we appreciate this commercial:
- The woman is obviously a genius, and—what do you know?—it’s accepted as a natural fact. There’s no qualification such as, “You were the first woman to split an atom with a soda bottle.” How often do we get to see a really smart woman that doesn’t have to pay for her brilliance or sacrifice something or inspire envy in others? Hardly ever. This woman wears her intelligence easily, and it’s a joy to see.
- She’s funny and engaging. When we first see her, she’s holding up her box with her new phone and says, “Guys. Yeah!! My new phone’s here.” Her “Yeah” comes with a bit of a squeal, and she’s wearing a big, genuine grin. Her last line in the ad—”So we’re gonna get nuts later”—indicates she’s a fun boss with an adventurous streak. Too often a smart woman (or man, for that fact) is shown as a one-dimensional bore or as awkwardly anti-social. And we all know that older women are way too often portrayed as fuss-pots or humorless. How nice that the writers gave her layers.
- Our heroine is humble. That doesn’t mean she’s dripping with false modesty or apologetic about being such a brainiac. She just responds to the reminders of her accomplishments with some verbal shoulder shrugs. We can’t imagine her as a diva. She seems like so many women we know and love: She knows what she’s good at and is secure enough in who she is that she doesn’t need to puff herself up.
- She looks the part of a smart, confident woman. She’s attractive but not gorgeous. She’s wearing little makeup and glasses that are cool in an appropriately nerdy way. Probably our favorite part of her look: She’s letting her gray come in along her part. Half the women we know these days have a similar look. It’s such a welcome departure from ads and movie roles where a high achieving woman looks way too “hot” for her position. Not because beautiful women can’t have Mensa-level IQs or C-Suite offices. It’s just that in real life, women with big brains don’t usually feel the need to flaunt heir other assets.
Look Who’s Watching
We imagine all the girls and young women watching this and getting the message that maybe one day they too can be this well-respected, this renown in their own careers. But thankfully that message isn’t delivered like a hammer–like some Nike commercial–in an earnest voiceover while some slow-motion montage gives us forced rah-rah woman power. We like the matter-of-fact package this commercial comes in and hope to see more like it.