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Just Ok? Well-Messaged and Funny Ads from AT&T, Part 1

By January 15, 2020August 10th, 2020No Comments
screen grab from AT&T ad, Just Ok is not Ok, surgeon talking to nurse in hospital room

I’m at a lunch meeting with Malika, a friend and colleague in the academic space. We are talking about a variety of topics when all of sudden, she had that look of “I just remembered something important.” Then she blurts out, “You have to see the surgeon ad.” I respond, “The what?” And she insists, “The surgeon ad. The one from AT&T about being just ok.”

“Why?” I inquire. And she adds, “Because it is perfect for you and what you do. You help people tell their stories. And telling an ok story is just not acceptable. You need an excellent story to attract attention.”  I nod in agreement to this point, still not quite understanding her big point. She sees I’m not completely following. She pulls out her trusty mobile phone and shows me the ad for the “Ok Surgeon” spot from AT&T. Half-way through watching, the 1,000 watt bulb popped, I smiled, and said, “I got it.”


Later in the day, I scoured the Internet and watched as many as I could find. I’d find one, another, and another. Soon, I realized there were more than 20.

At their core, these ads are saying, “ok is not ok.” That the other wireless carriers are just ok and AT&T is the best wireless network. AT&T takes typical situations we face in life and pokes fun of each comparing and contrasting the best with just ok. They are designed to be tongue and cheek. And what I find most interesting is this multi-ad concept. Rather than stopping at a few, which most organizations do, AT&T has released 24 that I could count, since March 2019.

My favorites are Surgeon and Tattoo. All are linked with brief descriptions below. I split the blog into two posts to speed up loading. Read about and watch the other commercials in part 2.


AT&T launched a multi-ad, multi-year campaign, beginning in March 2019 with College Basketball. These four ads set the tone of “don’t settle for just ok service.” And AT&T touts it is the nation’s best wireless network according to GWS. GWS stated, “AT&T crowned best US network based on the most comprehensive testing and consumer-focused evaluation.” GWS is the gold standard for the big four wireless carriers.

The advertising campaign was developed by an Omnicom Agency team including BBDO, Critical Mass, Hearts & Science, Organic, and Dieste. The voice overs are provided by actress Lena Waithe. Dieste developed the set of Spanish ads, “Comercial de AT&T,” with the tag line, “Solo Ok No Está Ok.”

I found these two sites especially helpful in doing my research and discovering more commercials: Commercial Society and


  • Consultants are Like Cat Herders, One of the Funniest Super Bowl Commercials… Ever  (read & watch)
  • Turbo Encabulator – Complete Text of the Best, Worst Example of Jargon  (read & watch)
  • Best Commercials & Why – Super Bowl 2018  (read & watch)
  • Best Commercials & Why – Super Bowl 2019  (read & watch)
  • Funniest Commercials – Super Bowl 2020  (read & watch)
  • Links to all blog posts on commercials


What’s not to like about Dr. Francis? He’s an ok surgeon according to the nurse. He says loudly, “Guess who just got reinstated? Well… not officially.” Dr. Francis asks the patient, “Nervous?” Well so is Dr. Francis. (some text from


The ad starts with the tattoo artist asking, “First tattoo?” After responding, “Yeah,” the artist says, “Relax amigo, it’s going to look ok.” More clever dialogue follows. My favorite exchange comes at 15 seconds. The young man says, “Uh… aren’t you supposed to draw it first?” And the ever calm artist says, “Stay in your lane bro,” with a cheesy, don’t-worry-about-anything-smile.


This one is controversial. It specifically calls out a cultural expectation that carnival employees are sketchy and careless. The ad plays to this expectation. A mother and son look excited to be on the ride. The attendant is having trouble securing the safety bar. Mom, in a half joking manner asks, “Is this ride safe?” The man responds, “Assembled it myself last night. Think I did an ok job.” Mom, worried, asks, “Just ok?” The son then asks, “What if something bad happens?” Nonchalantly, the attendant states, “We just move to the next town.”Mom and son facial expression turns to extreme concern.


A man walks into a mechanic’s shop to ask about brakes. Phil, the mechanic says, “We’re okay.” Continuing, “We have a saying here, if the brakes don’t stop it, something will.”  (some text from


A woman watches as a mover haphazardly carries out her grandmother’s clock. The lead mover assures her not to worry because her stuff is in “ok hands.” So, naturally, she and her husband question the service from the two-and-a-half-star rated movers. (some text from


Two couples sit down for dinner at a sushi restaurant. One woman asks the waitress for recommendations. The waitress says the salmon roll is ok. She goes on to explain the chef had it this morning and mysteriously went home sick. Now Kyle is in charge. He sniffs the fish, and exclaims, “This fish is raw.” The waitress doesn’t miss a beat and says, “Do we need a minute?” All four guests in unison respond loudly, “Yes!” (some text from


A first-time skydiver is scared. His tandem instructor reassures him all is well and he is an ok skydiver himself. The first-timer is even more nervous. He asks, “Does it get any easier?” The instructor looks out the door and down. He exclaims, “ahhhhh. Nope, the second time is just as scary.”


An important merger between two companies is in the works. The translator says in English, “Don’t worry, my Dutch is ok.” The translator speaks confidently, despite his improper translations.


An elevator, packed with people, opens. We see that the elevator has stopped too low for the passengers to exit properly. One man, oblivious to the anxiety, comments, “I’ve seen this in a movie,” and continues, “And it didn’t turn out well for them.” (some text from


Phil, a sketchy tax “professional,” currently under audit, says to the woman, “Leave it to me. I’ll get your taxes into an ok place.” He continues, “Just as soon as my audit is over, this gets my undivided attention.” Note, an interesting fact I noticed. This is the third main character with the name Phil.

Photography Source:  Screen capture from AT&T advertisement
#chiefstoryteller #storytelling #advertisements #marketing #humor

Ira Koretsky

Ira Koretsky has built The Chief Storyteller® into one of the most recognized names in communication, especially business storytelling. He has delivered over 500 keynote presentations and workshops in nearly a dozen countries, in more than one hundred cities, across 30 plus industries. His specialties are simplifying the complex and communicating when the stakes are high. He is also an adjunct professor in public speaking and storytelling at the University of Maryland's Business School. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after storytelling coach, global speaker, trainer, consultant, communication coach, and public speaking coach.