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Optical/IP

Cisco Buys Air

2:30 PM -- Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) is taking its case to the small screen with TV advertisements set to debut Oct. 2. The idea is to get Cisco known for making consumer items -- things like WiFi access points, and (maybe someday) the gear hooking up your IPTV/HDTV to your stereo, computer, toaster, etc.

You figure Cisco will have to fight consumer-friendly companies like Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) for control of the living room, so yeah, it's time to shake off the abstract "powering the Internet" image. But ads from the less consumery tech companies don't have the greatest track record.

Remember the Applied Materials Inc. (Nasdaq: AMAT) spots? They showed crowds crossing an busy intersection in Asia, with little animated flashes highlighting every device with a chip in it: cell phones, watches, nearby cars. If you didn't notice the little flashes -- and I knew plenty who didn't -- all you saw was well-dressed people crossing the street. Like the old Infiniti ads, the Applied spots were slick, sophisticated, and easy to make fun of.

Apple had equally abstract ads -- but, see, Apple can get away with that. They have a simple product that YOU, the consumer, can go buy. Applied Materials, selling big honkin' robots that play in vats of acid, doesn't translate so well to Joe Six-Pack.

Sun Microsystems Inc. tried something more direct during the bubble, calling itself "the 'dot' in dot-com." I still don't know what that means. Apparently it wasn't a good thing.

Come to think of it, though, I can't recall Cisco's last TV campaign. Wasn't it about "powering the Internet," or something? Hmmm... This brings up that age-old advertising question: Is it better to have a lousy ad that everyone remembers, or a good one that everyone forgets?

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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