Last Updated Feb 5, 2011 1:19 PM EST
The campaign brings back Verizon's "Can you hear me now?" guy, who ruled cellphone advertising from 2002 until 2010. At the end of the new spot -- which consists largely of closeup beauty shots of the new phone -- Test Man (as he's officially known) puts the device to his ear and in a slightly sarcastic voice says, "Yes, I can hear you now."
That's a clear punch aimed at AT&T, whose wireless service is best known for making iPhone users sound like they are underwater, at least when their calls aren't dropped altogether.
T-Mobile is keeping its girl-in-the-pink-dress commercials in heavy rotation, and those ads also attack AT&T. (They also borrow stylistically from Apple's (AAPL) discontinued "Mac vs. PC" campaign.)
AT&T has employed a multi-pronged strategy to deal with this hostile environment. It's offering new iPhones to customers for just $49; it's offering some existing customers their own free mini-cellphone tower to boost reception (I am not making that up); and its TV ads are focusing on the speed of its 4G network with a series of comical office scenarios in which the idiots who are not on AT&T get their messages a few seconds too late.
Will any of it make a difference? No. The entire market is currently being driven by three factors:
- The perceived superiority of the iPhone as a product.
- The perceived superiority of Verizon's coverage over AT&T's.
- And the switching costs that AT&T has imposed on its existing customers to prevent them from flipping to Verizon.
So that's the short run. The long run, of course, is that when any AT&T customer considers switching to Verizon they will encounter the $325 penalty and become even more furious at the company. This is what a brand in freefall looks like.