Does AT&T’s New Ad Campaign Encourage Rude Theater Behavior?

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We get a kick out of covering bad behavior in theaters, but we know that while there are some rude theatergoers out there a vast majority of people who go see live theater are respectful of the rules. However, actors and fans of live theater also don’t think such bad behavior should be encouraged, even in jest. That’s why many are annoyed by AT&T’s new Twitter campaign which tells football fans that they can stream a game while sitting in a theater. The ad depicts a smartphone user watching a Louisiana State University football game on ESPN while sitting in a theater. The caption reads, “Catch a WINNING PLAY at THE THEATER.”

Theater fans saw the ad as justifying bad theater etiquette and complained to AT&T. An AT&T spokesperson seemed to think theater fans are making a mountain out of a molehill and released a statement saying, “Certainly it’s evident our ads take place in an alternate reality and are not meant to be taken literally. The broad concept of the campaign is that you see content just about anywhere.”

Of course, Entertainment Weekly points out that those words are terribly ironic. “The irony in the statement is that the one piece of content you actually don’t — nay, can’t — see anywhere is a living, breathing, oh so delightfully of-the-moment live performance.” EW also notes that even if a performance hasn’t started, theatergoers don’t want to sit next to someone who is watching loud, flashy content on their portable devices.

Similarly, AT&T’s latest television commercial depicts a bored-looking patron at a ballet watching sports on his phone during a performance as the narrator says, “Flip between the fight, the game, and the ballet you didn’t want to go to!” Unlike the Twitter ad, this commercial specifically shows the phone user watching content on his phone during a performance — something that would be grounds for being asked to leave after annoying every person around you.

Still, it is unlikely that people will see the AT&T ads as an excuse to ditch their manners. However, if you are caught doing something rude in a theater, just blame your cell phone carrier.

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