I was driving home the other day when I became riveted by a radio ad. A man was speaking quickly and excitedly, but in a tautly controlled fashion, the way an announcer might narrate the final, furious 30 seconds of a prizefight. In fact, this guy went on for exactly 30 seconds, and by the time he was done I had pulled over and was scrambling to write down key words so I could later find a transcript. I did. Here it is, verbatim, in its entirety:
“Leverage all of VMware’s highest-end features without a SAN while avoiding the ten pitfalls of virtualization! Every day, more federal VMware customers throughout the DOD and civilian agencies are choosing the Nutanix virtualization appliance to avoid those pitfalls and achieve successful deployments much more quickly. Virtualize smart! Start small! Succeed! Scale incrementally upon success! Best of VM World in 2011 for VPI and in 2012 for Big Data. Visit nutanix.com slash federal for more information.”
This was the purest example of a genre of commercial we hear from time to time in the Washington area, ads apparently targeting a very small number of bureaucrats with very specialized knowledge and very large purchasing power.
I am on the phone now with Angela Restani, a marketing exec with Nutanix. Angela wrote the ad.
Me: I didn’t understand any of it. Well, I understood some individual words, mostly the articles and prepositions, but that’s all.
Angela: I’m sorry.
Me: I tried having a computer translate it into German and then back into English, and it did seem to make it a little clearer, but I still couldn’t get the gist of it. I asked several friends if they understood it, and only one — my editor, Tom the Butcher — even tried. He said: “I know exactly what this is. This is software that permits massive, untraceable deployment of photographs of your junk to eligible young ladies.”
Me: He nailed it, didn’t he?
Angela: He was close. But not quite.
Me: Is there any way you could have made that ad any less clear? Did you consider having it read by someone with a speech impediment or a thick Norwegian accent?
Angela: Actually, we spent days and weeks on it to make it completely clear to people who work in this environment.
Me: Explain it to me. In English.
Angela: Okay, we have taken the SAN, which is storage for large amounts of computer data, and we have combined servers and storage into one appliance, providing a converged infrastructure solution, because, in the world of virtualization ...
Me: Is your product a “thing”? Can you hold it in your hand?
Angela: Yes. It’s the size of a big DVD player. But in comparison to a large storage and server rack, it’s proportional to a pizza box versus a refrigerator. It costs between $50,000 and $125,000.
Me: Noted. I just now wrote a Nutanix-style advertisement for a product. Here it is: “We are selling a tree-sourced appliance for the implementation and maximization of the achievement of epiglottal and uvular exposure and examination by facilitating the compression and downward compaction of the muscular hydrostat of the human head.” Do you know what that is?
Angela: Something for a brain tumor?
Me: Close! It’s a tongue depressor. Have I made myself clear, Angela? No, I haven’t, now, have I?
Me: Okay, you can go now. I am done. What is your official title with Nutanix, so I get it right?
Angela: I am Worldwide Director of Demand-Gen.
Angela: You don’t understand that, either, do you?
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