Economists Do It With Models

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T-Mobile Nicely Illustrates My Life’s Work…

May 27th, 2009 · 12 Comments
Advertising · Discrimination · Gender · Just For Fun

I think I might be the only person to use my Tivo for the express purpose of watching commercials rather than skipping them. It’s my version of stopping to smell the roses, really…and if I hadn’t stopped, I wouldn’t have stumbled upon the following advertisement from T-Mobile, which really did speak to me (video after the description):

Announcer: 8 out of 10 Americans unknowingly pay too much for their cell phone service, so T-Mobile took action, sending out a team of economists to help people find the right plans for them.

(Shows team of old stodgy looking economists in boring suits. At least I can point out that there were some women in the group. Doorbell rings, guy opens door to see economist, slams door is economist’s face as economist says hello. Later, more doors are slammed, one economist gets sprayed with a garden hose, etc.)

Announcer: Then we tried a different approach.

(Shows guy opening door to see Catherine Zeta-Jones in a pink dress)

CZJ: Do you have time for a mobile makeover?

Guy: I believe I do.

Sigh. T-Mobile thinks it’s just being funny, but it’s kind of hit on a nerve with me. I have no doubt that economists have a lot to say that people would be interested in hearing, but I am all too well aware that their marketing and/or delivery could use a little help sometimes. (It probably doesn’t help that most economists seem to be most interested in writing for other economists.) Granted, I’m no Catherine Zeta-Jones (who is, really?), but this ad illustrates what I am trying to accomplish at least in a metaphorical sense. Maybe I’ll go out and get a pink dress and see if that helps.

P.S. This ad was actually to promote an independent organization called BillShrink. Hopefully you have learned enough from reading my site that your first thought is “What incentive does T-Mobile have to do this?” Luckily, TechCrunch is more than happy to answer that question.

Tags: Advertising · Discrimination · Gender · Just For Fun

12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 econgirl // May 28, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Update: My mom offered to buy me a pink dress.

  • 2 Tom // Jun 3, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    on one hand i don’t think you need it, but then again you should never pass up the chance to let you parents buy you stuff.

  • 3 Christopher Scott // Jun 12, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Maybe if Econ papers were a little easier to read…

  • 4 econgirl // Jun 12, 2009 at 11:14 am

    But if they weren’t hard to read how would you know how smart economists are? =P

    Sadly, there is some hint of truth to that…

  • 5 Krzysztof Wiszniewski // Jun 12, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    As an economist (of sorts, I’ve been out of the cycle for most of the last 10 years) writing for musicians (who aren’t generally noted for their economic smarts) I can say with some conviction that it helps to keep discussion on a down-to-earth level. Economics is something we all do on an everyday basis, so illustrative parallels (=helpful lies) are fairly easy to come by. I’ve a feeling that it’s mostly economese that puts people off.

  • 6 RiteshAroa // May 1, 2010 at 2:58 am

    Waering a pink sexy dress and then explaning something to econ student will give them a negative incentive to not to focus on subject :) :)

  • 7 Dave // Jul 22, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    Men may wear the pants, but, in American society, woman tend to be “culturally dominant”. Thus, what women think is important tends to be what runs in media, what appears in advertising et cetera.

    Judging from the pictures on the web site, econgirl is a woman. And there are many other women who are interested in economics as well. However, the *typical* American woman, in my experience, doesn’t seem to be very much interested in economics — to the point where she is even somewhat repulsed by it.

    This could, of course, only be true for the circle of people in which I normally circulate. Has anyone done any studies on this? I’d be interested in the results.

    A couple of examples involving my circle of friends:

    A few months ago, I was at a friend’s house, and he wanted to show us pictures from his trip to Paris and Normandy, so I rigged up my computer, so he could display the pictures on his TV. At about this time, the Keynes/Hayek Rap was starting to go viral ( http://www.econstories.tv/ ), so, after the picture show was over, I played that video for the assembled crowd, who wanted to see it. Immediately following the video, all the men started discussing the merits of deficit stimulus spending verses balancing budgets and paying down debt. The women, on the other hand, were not at all interested by the arguments presented in the video and had even less interest in our conversation; furthermore, they neither cared about nor understood why or how government spending might have large scale effects on the economy. They quickly informed us men that we were boring and then retired to the kitchen, only to appear thirty minutes later with a tray full of cookies and the question, “Are you men still discussing that silly economics stuff?”.

    I ran into a similar situation when I was explaining, a few weeks after that (but before the EU and IMF committed to rescuing Greece), why uncertainty about the Greek situation was causing uncertainty about the Euro, which was increasing the attractiveness of the Dollar, and why, if the situation continued, it might have an impact on American competitiveness. The ensuing discussion divided the room faster than a discussion of college football. As we continued talking, women disappeared to the other side of the room, while men arrived from the other side of the room to join the conversation about the possible consequences of the Greek situation.

    I could go on and on with examples, but they would all basically make the same point.

    Of course, the other common denominator in these stories is me. So I suppose that I must also consider the hypothesis that women, in my circle of friends, find economics to be interesting, but they find “economics + Dave” boring. :)

    Getting back to econgirl’s post: In my experience, the *typical* American woman considers it very important to try as hard as possible to look as beautiful as Catherine Zeta-Jones. The *typical* American man, on the other hand, while he certainly will notice a woman as beautiful as Catherine Zeta-Jones, isn’t going to be distracted by that from “serious matters” (like the economy) as much as the *typical* American woman is. That’s just my experience, in my circle of friends (most of whom are college-educated, middle-aged or college-aged white people). However, if it is also true of Americans in general (or, at least, is perceived as true of Americans in general by those who make advertising decisions), then that would explain the T-Mobile commercial.

  • 8 Mike // Jul 8, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Dave- you sound like a douche.

    Jodi- I like where your heart is, but using your sex appeal to make people listen to you is almost self-defeating, you know? I think you are doing a great job getting people to think without using hot dresses to sell it.

  • 9 Julian // Aug 2, 2011 at 3:26 am

    Just looked at billshrink.com . They don’t have MetroPCS on their list. Unfortunate, because i shrank my bill a lot by giving up T-Mobile and switching to metroPCS – my plan is just $40/month instead of the $70 offered by the likes of t-mobile and sprint.

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