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Saturday, May 26, 2018

AT&T Throws in the AT&Towel

May 1, 2010 by David McJivvers · 2 Comments 

If you’ve turned on a television in the past six months, you’ve probably borne witness to the multi-million dollar bare-knuckle brawl between Verizon and AT&T. Now, at long last, we seem to have a winner, with AT&T announcing that they will drop their attack ads in favor of a rebranding campaign under the banner of “Rethink Possible.” But before discussing the new work, let’s quickly recap what’s happened so far.

Verizon began by airing spots with the tagline “There’s a Map for That,” in an effort to mock AT&T and Apple’s ubiquitous “There’s an App for That” campaign. “There’s a Map for That” broke through the noise because Verizon went directly after their chief rival’s strength. Instead of promising a seemingly infinite number of apps, including one to help you balance a wobbly bookshelf, Verizon said its phones were reliable, period. This claim was made more believable by the years of advertising Verizon’s size and dependablity with “Can you hear me now?” and “It’s the Network.” But Verizon made sure to sear their newest brand claim into our minds with a simple map that compared Verizon’s 3G coverage to AT&T’s. Verizon, the map showed, had 5 times the 3G coverage of AT&T. The spots struck a nerve, and AT&T filed a lawsuit. The war was on.

It should be noted that AT&T did not dispute Verizon’s claim. Instead, they said that the white space on the map made it appear that AT&T had no coverage whatsoever in those areas, despite the fact that the map is clearly labeled as comparing 3G Coverage. Filing this junk lawsuit is when AT&T lost my respect, and it was no surprise when they dropped the suit a month later.

By this point, Verizon had already begun to twist the knife, unveiling Christmas-themed spots relegating the iPhone to the Island of Misfit Toys, and having elves give it to people on the naughty list. The assault didn’t let up after the holidays, as Verizon used the map as an unrelenting visual hammer against AT&T.

AT&T was angry! Deciding they needed to hit back with something powerful they… hired Luke Wilson? It seemed that Verizon had gotten under AT&T’s skin, had made them uncomfortable and offended. As a result, instead of responding by extolling their own competitive advantages or doing anything that remotely resembled good advertising, AT&T became defensive and turned out drivel like this:

First of all, Luke Wilson just seems angry. Nobody likes to buy things from angry people (possible exception: Slim Jim). But what’s really lacking here is substance. This ad is the schoolyard equivalent of responding “Nah-ah!” when someone else makes fun of you. You gotta hit back, AT&T!

Second of all, this commercial is misleading. Verizon’s maps showed 3G coverage, and AT&T is countering by talking about telephone coverage. Fight fair or don’t fight.

Thankfully, after months of subjecting America to even more forgettable spots with Luke Wilson, AT&T has given up. Announcing a shift, they will now be positioning themselves as a “lifestyle company,” using the tagline: “Rethink Possible.”

As the book closes on the great wireless war of 2009-2010, the question now becomes: does AT&T have the brand-building and creative chops to succeed with this new positive message? This question takes on greater importance when considering that AT&T is about to lose their biggest competitive advantage when the iPhone becomes available for Verizon by this fall.

AT&T has already begun to break new work, but aside from one touching commercial, the rest of the it seems to be living up to their previous creative standard:

First of all, this song is amazing; the commercial is beautifully done. But it could be for anything.

This is just another generic corporate branding campaign  (just add water and an expensive slogan!), with nothing to differentiate their brand from their competitors. “Happy 5th birthday again.” Seriously?

If AT&T thinks that this type of messaging will save their brand, then this commercial is right: they are living in a world of pure imagination.

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2 Responses to “AT&T Throws in the AT&Towel”
  1. Daaavid says:

    The AT&T “Rethink Possible” makes me think of Microsoft – it’s the same kind of vague promises without even attempting to back up their brand’s claims with features.

  2. Adam says:



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