The Battle of the Cell Phone Networks

By vitamin

Have you been keeping up with the strange advertising battle of the cell phone networks? The commercials have gotten progressively more competitive as the year has gone on … and it’s literally amazing.

In case you forgot, it all started with balls.

Verizon released a commercial called “A Better Network As Explained by Colorful Balls.” Different colored balls — each representing a different cell phone provider — slide down a track representing data from RootMetrics that essentially positions Verizon as the best cell phone network of the four frontrunners. The ad was easy to understand, backed by data and pretty impactful — I mean who doesn’t like watching colorful balls roll down tracks? Believe it or not, this ad actually persuaded me not to leave Verizon for a cheaper service.



But Sprint and T-Mobile weren’t digging the slander. And soon after, they released their own response ads — both using Verizon’s ball imagery.

Now Sprint and T-Mobile claim their similar ball ads were pure coincidence. But who knows.

Either way, the battle didn’t end there. Verizon fired back. The company hired comedian Ricky Gervais to take more jabs at the other networks. Here’s my favorite.

Then in June, Sprint got really sassy and hired Verizon’s old “Can You Hear Me Now?” spokesman for their own commercials, which launched during the NBA finals. Pretty clever stuff as Verizon’s “Can You Hear Me Now” campaign is probably its most memorable. Sprint, competing on price, had the former Verizon spokesperson say his allegiance changed to Sprint because “guess what, it’s 2016 and every network is great” but only Sprint’s prices have remained reasonable.

Following the release of that commercial, a spokesman for Verizon is quoted saying, “Sprint is using our 2002 pitchman because their network is finally catching up to our 2002 network quality.” ZING! This is getting dirty folks.

Not long after, Verizon fired back at Sprint with a new commercial using Jamie Foxx. The ad compares Verizon’s network to Sprint’s network, using a purposefully terrible Jamie Foxx “look-a-like” to represent Sprint, claiming it’s a second-rate network.

A couple of weeks later, Verizon used the same campaign concept to create a second Jamie Foxx ad — this time taking jabs at T-Mobile as well.

Since then, T-Mobile has been having fun with celebrities airing spots with Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande, highlighting Verizon’s data limits.


Interestingly enough, the only top provider that hasn’t joined in on the advertising battle is AT&T. They’ve mostly been staying the course with their humorous commercials like “Written Offer” and “Horoscope Lily” featuring actress Milana Vayntrub, who plays an AT&T saleswoman named Lily Adams.

Now you may be thinking it’s ridiculous for these companies to be spending this kind of money on silly little attack ads. But there are major industry changes driving this advertising battle. The cell phone industry is actually seeing decreased growth overall — which makes sense: as our society becomes increasingly mobile-friendly, more people have cell phones. And once you have a cell phone (especially if you signed a contract with a network), you really aren’t looking to switch providers any time soon. So in order to make more money, the networks are forced to fight over the existing customer base.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed that trip down advertising-memory lane. I for one, am pretty excited to see what commercials the networks air next.

Which of the ads that have run so far are your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.



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