March 23, 2016
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In a move that represents the first open act of publicity aggression against Sprint, Verizon has criticized Sprint’s recent ad campaign through the mouth of none other than hit comedian Ricky Gervais. In the brief ad, Gervais slams a yellow map for misleadingly depicting coverage on an unnamed mobile network. Although Sprint isn’t directly mentioned, that yellow color is unmistakable.

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To add fuel to the fire, Gervais and the Sprint got into a brief spat over Twitter, with Sprint thanking Verizon and the comedian for free advertising and Gervais quipping back “Don’t shoot the messenger.”

The jugular Verizon is aiming for with this advertising punch is the disclaimer at the bottom of a map noting that the map doesn’t represent coverage. Sprint’s position is that they are “just obeying the law,” and they counter (fairly) that Verizon does the same thing in their advertising. Although it does come across a bit hypocritical on the part of Verizon, Sprint is certainly guilty of at least being a bit deceptive.

The real crime here, however, is the total waste of Gervais’s charisma and wit. The thirty-second piece could literally have anyone standing in for the comedian and have essentially the same punch. It kind of seems like if you’re pulling in that kind of star power, you should at least have some punchy writing to make it worth the cash.

What are your thoughts on this open combat between Sprint and ‘Big Red’? It looks like Verizon might be taking a page out of T-Mobile’s book and becoming more adversarial in their marketing. But is this approach as effective as T-Mobile’s guerilla tactics have historically been? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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