AT&T Coverage Versus Verizon Wireless Coverage – What a Difference Wording Makes
AT&T and Verizon have been going back and forth in their advertising lately regarding AT&T cell phone coverage and Verizon’s claims about it. If you missed it, the whole thing started with some television commercials in which Verizon showed AT&T’s coverage map compared to Verizon’s coverage map. The commercials were apparently effective, because not only did AT&T fire up some counter-ads, it also sued.
At issue is the AT&T coverage map shown in Verizon’s ads. The commercials parody the Apple iPhone commercial’s line, "There’s an app for that" with the line, "There’s a map for that." The map in question shows AT&T wireless coverage for its 3G network, the one that is supposed to be handling the iPhone and it’s users because it is a faster data network. With 3G connections, accessing the Internet on an iPhone or any other mobile phone for that matter is much faster than on the old cell phone network technologies.
AT&T sued saying the ads were misleading and then started airing its own ads starring Luke Wilson in which Wilson says that AT&T has way more coverage than shown on that Verizon map. Then, he goes about flinging post cards around the map.
So, what happened? Who is lying, Verizon or AT&T?
The answer, as it often is in marketing, is that no one is technically lying. How can that be possible?
Well, as it turns out the map Verizon shows of AT&T 3G coverage is accurate. In fact, it is lifted from AT&T’s own maps of its 3G coverage area. So, what is AT&T complaining about?
AT&T said in its lawsuit that the ads implied that AT&T cell phone network has no coverage of any kind in the non-red areas on the map. It claims that casual T.V. viewers would be confused by the map and think that AT&T’s dismal 3G coverage was the same as its marginally better coverage with older slower technologies.
The Luke Wilson counter-commercials in which Wilson says, "Verizon has been making an issue about maps," uses a map of AT&T coverage that includes any kind of coverage whatsoever.
So, who is telling the truth?
Well, if you want to use a smartphone, iPhone, or any other mobile phone that accesses the Internet using the latest fast networking technology, then Verizon is telling the truth. You will only get that faster 3G coverage on the map with less red.
If you just want to make a phone call, then AT&T is telling the truth with the map that has a lot more red.
The question is, which is more deceptive? An ad portraying a network better suited to handling the kind of traffic used by "an app for that" showing how bad AT&T’s fast 3G network coverage is, or an ad depicting that ad as inaccurate by showing a map that displays where old network technology should allow any cell phone to at least make a call?
I’m going to give this one to Verizon as being more truthful. They are essentially saying that iPhones aren’t going to work very well in a lot of places because 3G coverage is not available in many locations. While AT&T is trying to show counter that they "cover" a much bigger area without mentioning what kind of coverage they are talking about.
As always, with marketing it comes down to parsing the exact wording in the advertisement.