Commentary

Verizon iPhone Could Restart Ad War

Iphone-VerizonLogo

It's no secret by now that Verizon Wireless plans to announce tomorrow it finally has the iPhone, breaking AT&T's three-year stranglehold on the coveted device. The smartphone equivalent of the golden goose is no longer AT&T's property alone.

What will be interesting to see is what kind of promotional push Verizon puts behind the iPhone, assuming the carrier won't rely strictly on word-of-mouth to support its release. After all, it was little more than a year ago when Verizon was pointedly mocking the Apple device in its ad blitz for the Motorola Droid, highlighting perceived limitations of the iPhone -- including lack of a physical keyboard, lack of a 5-megapixel camera, and no replaceable battery.

While the Droid Does campaign didn't actually name the iPhone, the "iDon't" preceding each negative statement about the device left no question about the target. Of course, there were also Verizon's "There's a Map for That" ads, tweaking Apple's "There's an App for That" campaign.

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Now Verizon will no doubt be extolling the wonders of the iPhone -- the apps, the interface, iTunes -- along with the vaunted reliability of its network. Verizon is like a team acquiring a franchise player from a fierce rival, embracing the star it was bashing only yesterday.

While Verizon has yet to roll out an iPhone campaign, the outlines of a rejuvenated ad battle with AT&T are already taking shape. In a statement sent to Business Insider over the weekend relating to a Verizon iPhone, AT&T Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications Larry Solomon said, "The iPhone is built for speed, but that's not what you get with a CDMA phone. I'm not sure iPhone users are ready for life in the slow lane."

Leaving aside the merits of that claim, it shows AT&T is sticking with its ad boast of having the "fastest mobile broadband network" when it comes to pitting its version of the iPhone against Verizon's. As it has in the past, AT&T will likely also attack the inability to multitask -- say, browse the Web or send an email while on a call -- on the forthcoming Verizon iPhone because of Verizon's use of CDMA technology.

For its part, Verizon is likely to emphasize its long-standing claim to operating the most reliable network as an advantage over the spotty coverage iPhone users, especially in New York and San Francisco, have long complained about in relation to AT&T's service. Whether this claim will touch off an all-out ad war like the one the two carriers launched over 3G coverage in 2009 remains to be seen.

A new front has already opened, with Verizon and AT&T rolling out competing 4G networks. Verizon launched a campaign in November claiming it has "the most advanced 4G" network in the world" while jabbing at AT&T's lack of 4G coverage. Last week at CES, AT&T announced the "fastest mobile broadband network" is "getting faster with 4G" as the carrier plans to offer 20 4G phones this year and complete its next-generation network by 2013.

Will AT&T call on Luke Wilson to reprise his role as spokesman to tout its version of the iPhone? Will the Verizon Guy fight back by wielding an iPhone with a crowd of Verizon workers behind him and asking "Can you hear me now?" That's when we'll know things have gotten really ugly.

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