AT&T has asked a federal court in Atlanta to force Verizon Wireless to pull a series of ads immediately, according to reporting from USA Today. Verizon responded by standing by its ads. "What we are saying doesn't change," spokesperson Jim Gerace told the paper.
Reportedly, one ad named in the complaint is the holiday-timed play on the Island of Misfit Toys - home to Charlie in the Box, and other not-quite-successful playthings. While a spotted elephant exclaims that AT&T's iPhone can download apps and browse the Web, the toys quickly commiserate once the iPhone reveals its sorry coverage map.
In the original suit, filed on Nov. 3, AT&T said that the comparisons were misleading, which could lead to considerable loss of market share. "Verizon has stepped over the line of legitimate comparative advertising," AT&T said in the suit, according to reporting from Reuters.
"We are entering into the critical [holiday] quarter for the industry. If customers think they can't make calls in the vast majority of the country ... that could do us irreparable harm," AT&T spokesperson Mark Siegel told USA Today.
Data from BrandIndex, a service of YouGov, has shown that the ads are in fact affecting public perception. The service measures consumers' brand perceptions on a daily basis, and says that since Verizon launched its Motorola Droid campaign on Oct. 19, consumer ratings of AT&T have dropped, while Verizon's have risen.
While iPhone customers have complained about dropped calls and slow service, Ted Marzilli, managing director of BrandIndex, explained that customers get a sense of their satisfaction level in the first few weeks of using a product, but a good ad campaign can nonetheless make them feel better or worse about the product.
"You might have an iPhone and be loving life, but then you see these ads and it potentially has an impact on your satisfaction level," Marzilli told eWEEK.
While AT&T calls the 3G coverage maps misleading - and that customers may think there's no coverage in areas where AT&T offers 2.5G, instead of 3G speeds - it doesn't argue that they're accurate. Nonetheless, reports USA Today, the carrier will not disclose exactly what percent of its network is covered by its 3G network.