AT&T Wireless' Super Failure: mLife
February 4, 2002 8:16 AM   Subscribe

AT&T Wireless' Super Failure: mLife — Quote: "Isn't it about time companies figured out that simple navigation is the key to presenting information? The mLife website is neither mysterious like the ads nor usuable. It's simply crap."
posted by ratbastard (34 comments total)
I tried to go to the website last night and got one of those "website not found" messages - I know I got it cause of too much traffic but it was still, ahem, inauspicious. Then my husband insisted I google mlife, as the curiosity factor was getting to him. The minute I said AT&T the interest factor went to absolute zero.
posted by bunnyfire at 8:20 AM on February 4, 2002

Pretty much everyone I talked to who didn't watch the superbowl still thinks it's Metropolitan Life or something healthcare related. I wonder if the hype-before-info ad campaign did more to spread dis-info than spark interest?
posted by Hackworth at 8:30 AM on February 4, 2002

OTOH, the mlife website is up to number 9 today on the Daypop Top 40. So they are getting buzz.
posted by iceberg273 at 8:36 AM on February 4, 2002

those ads on the superbowl and just prior annoyed the hell out of me. at this point, i'm not even interested in what mLife really is.
posted by moz at 8:39 AM on February 4, 2002

I thought it had something to do with Metamucil.

And When I heard it was AT&T? Oh great, maybe they can be as reliable with this crap as they are with my cable internet service, which cuts out once a week.

posted by Kafkaesque at 8:43 AM on February 4, 2002

Yeah, I was thinking met life, myself. It's just annoying, though, when you overpopulate the airwaves with the 'what is mLife' question, when you don't give ANY hint towards what it is.

I mean, really, they could sneak in little hints about what it is so by piecing the commercials together, you get the gist of the service, or at least what SECTOR it's in.
posted by rich at 8:43 AM on February 4, 2002

Good marketing, but bad follow-through. It will create a lot of buzz and make the ad agency famous, but the actual product? It better be easy to understand, easy to use and work right off the bat. Because now you've set expectations high,

what a horrible name, as well. Sounds like a boardroom brainstorm gone bad!! Not to mention confusion with MetLife.
posted by brucec at 8:44 AM on February 4, 2002

The site's not THAT bad. The biggest shortcoming is content, it takes 4-6 pageviews before the realizing the site has nothing to say. They probably spent a lot of money getting a good photographer to make original images look like stock. It reminds me of a standard 3-fold marketing brochure, not much to get excited about.

The problem is the product/service/brand. It just seems hollow. Maybe most American kids don't realize that non-American cell phones are still 3-4 years ahead and custom ring-tones should have been here in 1999.
posted by joemaller at 8:50 AM on February 4, 2002

I like the commercial with all the bellybutton shots that then said "We deserve a wireless life" or something like that. That's the only time I figured out that it might have something to do with phones. The rest were just annoying. I hate the "teaser" type ads that don't just tell you what the hell they are for.
posted by aacheson at 8:53 AM on February 4, 2002

anybody have a clue what the "m" is supposed to stand for? why mlife? not only is it confusing vis-a-vis metlife, but I can't find any justification for it either. I guess it sounds better than jLife or kLife though...
posted by jnthnjng at 8:55 AM on February 4, 2002

moblie maybe baby
posted by corpse at 8:58 AM on February 4, 2002

posted by quonsar at 9:01 AM on February 4, 2002

thanks guys. i knew i was stupid :)
posted by jnthnjng at 9:05 AM on February 4, 2002

The thing that bothers me the most about this site is the coy/not-useful navigation headings: Connection, Information, Expression, Activation. Those headings tell you next to nothing about what's behind the links.

Besides, you should never, under any circumstances, name a link "Information." It's a website, folks — it's all information.
posted by ratbastard at 9:22 AM on February 4, 2002

and once again, the timing of the seemingly random banner ad is poignantly priceless.

okay... not poignant really, but i liked the alliteration so i kept it....
posted by grabbingsand at 9:34 AM on February 4, 2002

What a forking joke. Why place ads if the site is going to be down during the SuperBowl. You'd have thought that companies learned their lesson after the debacle a few years ago.

I ended up connecting to the site later last night, and I was wholly unimpressed.
posted by catatonic at 9:53 AM on February 4, 2002

I too was disappointed with the initial offering. All I see is tell me, or should I say *121 (1-800-555-TELL for those without AT&T). I have been using the tell me service for at least a year, maybe 2. It's been very useful to me, and it's free. I haven't used it outside of any metro areas, but the directions feature has helped me many times. It sucks that they lost the restaurant reviews and reservations (which were very helpful).

The tell me developer stuff is very cool for those looking to play with VXML (voice xml).
posted by stormy at 10:13 AM on February 4, 2002

I liked the author's final point... that the $8M+ would have been much better spent making sure that their current system works properly.

IMO, being able to have a 10 min conversation w/out redialing 5 times is waaaaaay sexier than rebranding of a subpar system w/bells and whistles that the general population won't use.

Stinks of the ol' "lipstick on a pig" proverb.
posted by berk at 10:18 AM on February 4, 2002

Tellme + ringtones + SMS messaging = mLife revolution? Puhleeze.

At least this has some real improvements in usability.

posted by kfury at 10:23 AM on February 4, 2002

Fuck em. I don't care what mlife is. What a dumb campaign.
posted by McBain at 10:23 AM on February 4, 2002

Not only are they repackaging the same old sh*t as a "revolution", but the old stuff didn't work, so there is no real use in repackaging it. I just switched from AT&T Wireless to another company because after being jerked around by AT&T for a year, I was sick of it. I'm glad they chose a stupid name and bad commercials to relaunch themselves. Perhaps that way people won't make the same mistake I did when choosing a wireless provider.
posted by raintea at 10:47 AM on February 4, 2002

I actually already have an AT&T Wireless phone. I have been very pleased with my tiny little Nokia.
posted by McBain at 10:50 AM on February 4, 2002

The campaign worked y'all.

The site is getting massive traffic and people are talking about it.

Not bad for a couple of ads.
posted by SuzySmith at 11:30 AM on February 4, 2002

I've been using ATTWS for years without complaint...except for the outrageous pricing structure (compared to GSM companies like VStream). Any word on how mLife might make AT&T more competitive pricewise until they roll out GSM?
posted by ThomDonnelly at 11:44 AM on February 4, 2002

VoxML is actually pretty cool stuff. From the website, I didn't realize it was the Tell Me service. As part of a graduate web design class, I actually built a web site that used the tell me service for the VoxML as an alternative to web browsing and it was pretty cool. I also covered VoxML about 3 years ago when it first broke onto the scene and was pretty impressed by its capabilities.

But, like any experience, depends on the abilities of the interface designer. If it's the same people that built, I don't hold out too much hope.
posted by rich at 12:36 PM on February 4, 2002


Way, way more than a couple of ads.

Also, there's talk and there's talk. Many people talked at great length about the dot-com ads of Super Bowls past, most of which touted companies that promptly sank.

The "made you look" school of advertising thought is widely promoted -- mostly by ad agencies -- but it ignores that some talk is likely to promote sales and some talk is just talk.
posted by argybarg at 1:50 PM on February 4, 2002

So, be wireless, just like babies are wireless?
posted by fuq at 3:09 PM on February 4, 2002

AT&T is famous in the NYC area for having crappy coverage. In any case, cellular service is all the same: an oligopoly where no one really undercuts anyone on price.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:19 PM on February 4, 2002

I also just quit AT&T. I wanted a real internet enabled cell phone. Verizon has these. Best phone I have ever had.
posted by rglasmann at 4:49 PM on February 4, 2002

Mobile Life :)
posted by riffola at 4:54 PM on February 4, 2002

The "made you look" school of advertising thought is widely promoted -- mostly by ad agencies -- but it ignores that some talk is likely to promote sales and some talk is just talk.

Olgilvy and Mather was the agency behind this campaign, according to the column in the original post. I found that pretty interesting since David Ogilvy is one of the more legendary advertising execs.

His main business philosophy is that advertising must translate into actual sales to be sucessful (what a concept). If you get your viewers attention, that's nice -- but if you didn't sell the product, you failed miserably. This was the main thrust of his book "Ogilvy on Advertising," which was filled with so many simple but effective communications techniques, that I still refer to it regularly at work.

I imagine this 'mlife' campaign (which left me with a 'WTF' feeling throughout the first half) gave old Dave a little spin in his grave.
posted by Dirjy at 8:56 PM on February 4, 2002

That reason why Mlife sucks as a concept is that it doesn't suggest telephone or wireless or AT&T. It's the tail of curiosity wagging the dog. Total failure. You'll see.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:03 PM on February 4, 2002

I submit that if an ad is sufficiently annoying, then I'll never have anything to do with the product that spawned it, just out of spite.

I'm never ever buying a motherfucking Dell, for example.
posted by dong_resin at 11:16 AM on February 5, 2002

But Ben Curtis is cute!
posted by verdezza at 11:54 AM on February 5, 2002

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