The Cisco ad with the robots

April 20, 2012

During a presidential election year, I tend to watch the news much more often than usual.  This doesn’t seem to make me any better informed, the news outlets seldom provide more useful detail than I can glean scanning headlines and blurbs in Google News.  I watch as a guilty pleasure.  It’s like professional wrestling dressed up in a suit and tie with hyped-up rivalries and dramatic outrage over trivial matters.  It is entertaining theater, even if it doesn’t seem to lead to particularly effective government.

I bring this up because throughout the primary elections, the commentators have been speaking a great deal about the high unemployment rate, people out of work, and the need for more jobs.  And, because during a 24-hour news cycle there only seems to be time to report on a handful of things repeatedly, this point is made again and again.

Which brings me to the Cisco ad with the robots.

In the same time period, during commercial break after commercial break, Cisco has been running an unintentionally ironic ad.

In the ad, a bunch of industrial robots are busy building a car in an otherwise lifeless factory.  Suddenly one goes dead and all work comes to a halt.  A neighboring robot makes an adjustment on the broken one, the robot is fixed and all go back to work.  A voice over proudly proclaims something like, “Assembly lines that fix themselves.  Great innovation is possible with Cisco”.

This is all brought to a close with a shot of the Cisco logo and the tagline “Built For The Human Network”.


Despite the message it is trying to convey, the narrative that runs through my brain is:

  • Relentless news: Unemployment is high, people need jobs
  • Commercial break: Hey everyone!  Now Cisco enables firing the people who fix the machines that got everyone else fired!
  • Cisco: The human network.

The commercial is well produced, but its placement and tagline are tragic.
One possible explanation is that Cisco advertising is handled by an industrial robot.