What if?

Following yesterday’s horrific events in Paris, I dedicate this blog post to all cartoonists in the world.


How does one present a high-technical product portfolio to a non-technical audience?

The company I work for, Alcatel-Lucent,  recently organized an open day and I was asked to present my employer, our activities and our products. These were a few of the challenges I was confronted with:

  • We are an IP networking, cloud and ultrabroadband access specialist. Most of the solutions we develop and sell are complex and high-tech in nature;
  • We deliver communications technology to service providers, industries and public institutions. As such, our products (and consequently our brand) are not really visible to end-users and consumers;
  • The presentation was to be given to a broad, local audience of all ages. Most of these people are not familiar with any network gear, related jargon and acronyms;
  • With a guided tour of the venue scheduled each 10 minutes, the time budget to present our rather extensive portfolio was very limited;
  • I had given a similar talk during a past edition of the same event. As part of the audience might have attended that one, I had to craft a brand new pitch.

As reported in an old blog post of mine, “Highway 61 revisited”, this previous presentation was built upon the theme of a jamless (information) highway. At that time, I got lots of positive feedback from the management as well as from the audience: “an original and compelling corporate narrative”, “my parents understood your presentation” and “my kids thought you told a cool story.”

So, how could I be successful (again) with without retelling the same story or reusing the same highway metaphor?

What if?” is a bestselling science book by former NASA employee Randall Munroe (who is also the creator of the popular xkcd web-comic) in which serious answers are given to absurd hypothetical questions such as: “What if you tried to hit a baseball that was moving at 90% of the speed of light?, “What if I took a swim in a nuclear fuel pool?” or “What if a Richter magnitude earthquake were to hit New York City?”

There’s also a popular Emmy-awarded comedy show broadcasted on Belgian television, in which every sketch begins with a “what if?” question. What if Jesus was a politician? What if taxi drivers didn’t like driving? What if life was an R&B clip? …

This is why I proposed to build a company pitch around the theme of “What if there was no communication technology?” and illustrate the possible consequences of this unlikely assumption with a series of cartoons (created by the cartoonist about whom I already wrote in my “Mr. Watson, come here!” post).

Here are the visuals we presented (with a transcript of what was said ― sorry for the promotional tone, but it was a company presentation after all…)

What if you wouldn’t have fast internet access at work or in your home? No digital TV to watch your favorite movies? No wireless network to make calls and surf on your smartphone? No access anymore to email, FaceBook, YouTube, NetFlix, Dropbox, Skype or WhatsApp?


As a worldwide leader in communication technology, Alcatel-Lucent provides products and innovations in IP and cloud networking, as well as ultra-broadband fixed and wireless access to service providers and their customers, that allow and enable all these applications ― and many more ― to function properly. Our people contribute to the telecom solutions for today and tomorrow.

Did you know that our company has been recognized by Thomson Reuters as a “Top 100 Global Innovator” and MIT Technology Review put us in the “Top 50 Most Innovative Companies in the World”?


We can’t imagine a world without broadband internet any more. To search for information, to communicate, to shop … or just to watch a movie on digital TV, Netflix or YouTube.

Alcatel-Lucent enables service providers to offer fast internet and to bring digital video at the highest quality in your living rooms. You can browse the web or watch movies on every screen: TV, tablet or smartphone.

Did you know that ADSL (or fast Internet over telephone wire) was invented by Alcatel-Lucent in Belgium? And that we, as a technology company, received an Emmy Award for our contribution to the development of digital TV?


Internet is everywhere. So we think it’s only normal that we can call anywhere mobile and can surf at high speed in the park, in the station, in the car …

Alcatel- Lucent’s 4G wireless networks and Small Cells offer ultra-broadband access to the mobile internet whenever and wherever you want. To find your way around town, to watch YouTube on the bus, or simply to communicate with your family and friends.


Most of you probably own a Facebook or a Twitter account. Or maybe you are an occasional or frequent Skype, YouTube or WhatsApp user. Did you ever wonder how it’s possible that all these apps (most of the time) run smoothly on your PC, smartphone or tablet?

Obviously there is an important role for the Apples, Samsungs, Microsofts and Googles of this world to play, as well as for their respective application developers. But it’s too often forgotten that the network also plays an important role.

Without Alcatel-Lucent ‘s communication technology, your smartphone suddenly wouldn’t be that smart anymore and all these popular apps would sit idle on your devices, not able to talk with their servers or with each other.


Increasingly often you hear colleagues and friends say that they are “in the cloud”. Do they mean that they are living with their heads in the clouds? Certainly not! Cloud simply means that your emails, music, movies, business documents or applications are stored on a server that’s attached to the network. As such, they are always accessible. You can throw away your hard disk drives and servers, because a fast Internet connection is all you need!

At Alcatel-Lucent, we know that cloud computing is an opportunity for service providers and enterprises, and that a secure and high-speed access is important for end-users. That’s why we are investing in research and development of new technologies and products ― such as Software Defined Networks, Network Function Virtualization and CloudBand ― for faster, more robust and more flexible cloud solutions.


So, the Internet has become an integral part of our daily lives. What would you do without? At school, at work and in your spare time. Imagine a day without the world wide web, no email, no Facebook, no YouTube, NetFlix, Skype, Snapchat or WhatsApp …

Did you know that 90% of the information that we use today was collected in the past 2 years? And that the traffic in that period increased by one-third?  With a PC in our living room, a tablet on your lap and/or a cell phone in your pocket, we are all travelers on the information highway.

To make your trip as comfortable as possible, Alcatel-Lucent keeps investing in the evolution  of broadband and IP networks. In transporting data over fiber, in routing and switching, in wireline and wireless internet, and in cloud platforms to offer voice, video and multimedia communications services. At high speed and with the best quality of service.

All our employees are giving the best of ourselves to invent new products, and to develop and commercialize communications solutions to make your internet faster, safer and more comfortable. Day after day.

Days after I created the presentation, I found out that Nissan is also running a “What if” advertising campaign.

Note: the cartoons above were created for and paid by my employer. If you want to reuse some of them for non-commercial purposes, you must acknowledge Alcatel-Lucent as the source and copyright owner of the image(s) ― which I am also doing by writing this sentence.