AT&T filed a lawsuit this week against Verizon Wireless over its series of allegedly misleading ads carrying the tagline “There’s a map for that.”
In those ads, two different maps of the United States are presented side by side: One illustrating Verizon’s vast 3G wireless network, the other supposedly depicting AT&T’s weaker 3G coverage. Specifically, the AT&T map contains a large amount of white space--implying that there are large areas of the country where the company offers no 3G service.
That white space is the point of contention in AT&T’s suit. “We believe that Verizon’s ads are misleading,” said AT&T rep Mark Siegel. “The use of white space gives the impression that there is no coverage provided in those areas. That’s simply not true. That's the problem we have.”
Siegel explained that AT&T’s 2.5G Edge network--which serves as a backup network for 3G subscribers--“virtually blankets the country,” and serves 296 million subscribers.
The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court of Atlanta, uses some dire language, claiming that Verizon’s ads pose a serious threat to AT&T’s business. It reads: “As a result of the misleading claim, AT&T is losing incalculable market share, invaluable goodwill that it has spent billions of dollars to develop among consumers, and the significant investment it has made in its wireless network.”
Verizon was unavailable for comment.
Meanwhile, as the two wireless giants volley back and forth, marketers say the conflict will force both brands to come clean about some of their claims.
“An ad war between AT&T and Verizon could really benefit customers,” said Harry Woods, co-creative director and partner, Woods Witt Dealy & Sons. “Competitive volleys based on real service information, like ‘Where do you have 3G coverage' and 'Where don't you?’ can really force the facts in front of consumers in a way that doesn't happen in a more benign competitive environment."
But both brands need to be wary of a prolonged battle, said Woods. He added: “From an execution standpoint, brands shouldn't get into an ad war unless they are prepared to fight hard and win."
— Nielsen Business Media