Verizon vs. AT&T: The Ad Wars Shift

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Getting into the spirit of the season, Verizon is enlisting the aid of elves, Elvis, and stop-motion puppets in its holiday offensive against AT&T. In a new set of ads (which you can see below), Verizon continues to highlight its s

uperior nationwide 3G coverage as an argument for going with the carrier and its handset lineup, including HTC's Imagio and Droid Eris, instead of Apple's iPhone on AT&T. The new ads are stirring a lot of debate online, and may also be fodder for a rumor that never really goes away.

The Ads

Of the three new Verizon ads, the best one by far features the Island of Misfit Toys characters from the classic television special "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." In the ad, a

new arrival on the island bears an uncanny, although not exact, resemblance to the iPhone. The suggestion in the ad is that the iPhone belongs among the rejects not because of the device's quality, but due to the coverage of AT&T's 3G network. Two other ads make the same argument featuring Santa's elves and Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas."

The War

Earlier this month, AT&T filed a lawsuit in a Georgia court over Verizon's first set of "There's A Map for That" ads, which feature a side-by-side comparison of each carrier's 3G coverage map -- as the new ads do as well.

AT&T isn't disputing the coverage argument, and says instead that Verizon's ads cause customers to believe that AT&T has no coverage whatsoever where its 3G network is absent. For that reason, AT&T believes the ads are "misleading" and will cause incalculable losses to the company's market share. But the legal threats haven't stopped Verizon from forging ahead with its smart, and increasingly entertaining, campaign against AT&T and the iPhone.

What the Ads are Missing

While the new ads are entertaining, it's surprising to see that Verizon hasn't used the ads to show off its new Motorola Droid handset as an alternative choice for potential iPhone customers. As blogger John Gruber points out, "if [Verizon is] going to run explicitly anti-iPhone ads, they should use them to establish Droid as the superior rival."

In fact, Verizon spends a lot of time going after AT&T, but made no effort to attack the iPhone as the first Droid ad did. Was Verizon afraid of incurring the wrath of the mighty Steve Jobs by openly mocking the iPhone? That's doubtful, when you consider Apple is still pushing its three-year old "Get A Mac" campaign, which explicitly mocks all things Windows. So Apple would be hard pressed, at least in the court of public opinion, to go after another company for running similarly styled ads.

Rumor Redux

But maybe there's something else going on here. Could the ads be supporting an iPhone rumor that simply refuses to die? Rumors have resurfaced that Apple might produce a so-called "worldmode" phone in late 2010 that will work on Verizon's CDMA infrastructure. The information came from a report created by OTR Global--an independent research firm--supplied to Apple Insider by an unnamed "industry analyst."

An iPhone-on-Verizon rumor is nothing new, and has been speculated many times before. But notice that Verizon, in its current ads, is no longer going after the iPhone, just its carrier. Why the switch?

It's also interesting to note that one stumbling block for seeing the iPhone on Verizon has recently been removed. Earlier this year, Verizon went forward with plans for a new application store designed exclusively for handsets on its own network. At the time, it was believed that Verizon intended to force all Verizon handsets to include out-of-the-box access to only the carrier's VCast App Store.

Nevertheless, users could still access handset-specific stores, like Blackberry App World, by downloading an app or visiting these stores online. Even so, that's a bargain that I doubt Apple could ever accept. But with the Motorola Droid's integration with the Android Market, instead of Verizon's own store, that stumbling block for the iPhone may no longer be an issue.

So what do you say? Is Verizon sticking it to AT&T, while staying away from the iPhone so it won't be caught in a corner if Apple's wonder device makes an appearance on Verizon's network in 2010? Or should we just give it up, and retire this rumor once and for all?

Misfit Toys



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