AT&T/Verizon Ad War

05Jan10

If you watch TV at all, you’ve probably seen the ads which have been playing for about a month and a half now, featuring some frat pack actor guy, talking about how great AT&T is, in comparison to Verizon. You probably also know that these ads are in response to an earlier Verizon ad which shed light on AT&T’s comparative lack of 3G network coverage.

I’m not a fan of either company, but it’s been interesting to watch how this has played out, especially when you take note of the chain of events:

  1. Verizon airs “There’s a map for that” ad (a parody of iPhone ads) with the message that Verizon offers 5 times more 3G network coverage than AT&T.
  2. AT&T sues Verizon, laughably claiming that their ad is misleading – non-technical users will believe the ad states that Verizon has 5 times more network coverage (of any sort, not just 3G) than AT&T[1].  AT&T loses.
  3. AT&T fights back with ads starring that frat pack guy:
    1. Explaining that AT&T has service (not 3G) covering greater than X percentage (where X is some suitably large number) of the US population[2].
    2. Explaining that on Verizon’s network, you can’t talk and use your phone’s data features at the same time.
    3. Explaining that Verizon doesn’t have AT&T’s “rollover” minutes.
    4. Explaining that AT&T’s 3G network is faster than Verizon’s 3G network.

What’s interesting about all of this is that none of the statements in any of these ads were false:

  • Verizon really does have around 5 times the 3G coverage vs. AT&T,
  • AT&T does have the fairly large (mostly non-3G) coverage they state,
  • Verizon can’t support concurrent voice and data,
  • Verizon doesn’t have rollover, and
  • AT&T’s current[3] 3G technology is indeed faster than Verizon’s.

So what’s happened is that AT&T has engaged in a misdirection campaign[4] of their own.  “Hey, forget what Verizon said.  We’re not saying they’re wrong, but just forget what they said.  Here’s all the great stuff about AT&T!  Oh, and we really have great coverage!  What’s that?  It’s not 3G?  Shut up and just look how blue our map is!”

It’s clear that AT&T got really pissed off about that original Verizon ad.  But was this overblown response really necessary?  I’ll do some speculation, since I have no data to work with.

I’d guess that most people don’t care.  People know what kind of coverage they get on their phone, the places that they go.  They probably know what kind of coverage their friends on other networks get in the same places.  Was that ad really going to get people running out to their local Verizon store (especially considering contract termination fees), begging to switch, because they were terrified that AT&T didn’t have coverage where they needed it?  What’s more likely is that most of the people who would even care about what the ad was saying (who has more high speed data coverage) probably understood the point. Do you go lots of places?  Do you want more 3G coverage?  Verizon is better[5].

It’s too late now, but what I’d really like to see would be the results of a survey commissioned after the Verizon ad, before any retaliation by AT&T.  Did people understand the original ad?  If so, did it cause anyone to switch?

Instead of answering the questions, AT&T went to court, and paid some frat pack guy a bunch of money.  I wonder which would have cost more.

[1] Okay, maybe not entirely laughable – that people would not understand what Verizon was saying is a valid concern. The laughable part is the premise of the lawsuit – that Verizon should be legally punished for stating fact.
[2] Interestingly, the frat pack guy rattles off a list of places, but they’re all major cities where AT&T probably has 3G anyway – which is even more misleading – isn’t the point of this response campaign to explain that you have more nationwide coverage than Verizon?
[3] What constitutes “3G” is a bit fuzzy anyway as some things may be faster or slower than what was originally called 3G. For example, both AT&T and Verizon are using technologies that the industry considers to be 3.5G, and 4G is not long off.
[4] A pretty big one, too, judging from how often I have to hear the frat pack guy’s smarmy voice in between shit I’m watching on TV.
[5] Right now.  Who knows when you’re a year in to that Droid contract.
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One Response to “AT&T/Verizon Ad War”

  1. 1 at&t shill

    shallow and pedantic


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