Is That Kevin Durant Cleaning Gutters?

When you think about cleaning out your gutters, a few different images come to mind. If you’re like most Americans, you probably envision part of a wasted weekend morning or afternoon up on the roof scooping out leaves, pine needles, and other debris. If you’re an optimist and/or a realist, you may view gutter cleaning as simple preventive maintenance, given that clogged gutters can lead to runoff water falling near your home and causing expensive foundation damage over time.

But you’ve probably never though about gutter cleaning as the punch line to a joke — especially in a TV commercial.

However, that’s the exact purpose of this chore as demonstrated in this new television ad by Sprint.

The wireless carrier is promoting its “unlimited data” plan, which allows customers to receive as much content on their mobile phones as they want for a single monthly fee. Since Sprint is also an advertising partner with the National Basketball Association, the company naturally wants to appeal to basketball fans who would love being able to watch as much NBA programming on their cell phones as they want.

To illustrate this benefit, Sprint enlisted the aid of Kevin Durant, a forward for the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder and one of the league’s marquee players. Hoops fans sometimes forget that Durant stands 6 feet 9 inches tall — a fact which is alluded to in the Sprint ad.

The spot opens with Durant striding into a den wearing pajamas that are obviously too small for him. His son remarks that because the man ostensibly stayed up late watching NBA programming on his mobile phone, he’s starting to look like Kevin Durant. But the mother gazes upon her “husband,” denies that any change has taken place, then tells her son, “Go play. Mommy’s got some things for Daddy to do.” Then there’s a pause (just long enough for the audience to wonder what she means), followed by Durant on the driveway reaching up to the gutters, removing debris, and then putting it in a bag being held by the woman.

There are a few observations that can be made about this Sprint commercial.

  • Durant appears to be a bit of a natural in front of the camera. And he is portraying an image of not taking himself too seriously by looking silly in too-small pajamas – much like other athletes-turned-successful-pitchmen Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.
  • This spot is rare in that it produces a few moments of genuine confusion for the viewer (“Did you shrink my pajamas?”). Think about it: most commercials are pretty straightforward, even those which have a twist at the end.
  • But oh, the twist in this ad! The aforementioned pause, combined with the mother staring intently at Durant and unconsciously playing with her wedding ring, is strategically placed to conjure up images of a sexual nature in the viewer’s mind. While ads have always used “sex” to sell products, only recently have not-so-subtle suggestions of actual sex begun appearing in TV ads (Exhibit A: the Samsung Galaxy S III mobile phone commercial).

And then … boom! There’s Kevin scooping out gutters. Punch line gets delivered. Audience guffaws. And gutter cleaning gets its 15 minutes of fame.

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