Commentary

It Begins: The Verizon iPhone Campaign

In its first ad for the iPhone 4, which hit YouTube and prime-time TV last night, Verizon has held back from attacking arch rival AT&T.The 30-second spot (posted below) shows a series of ticking clocks that finally strike "12:00" in unison, followed by a series of slides: the gray Apple logo above "iPhone 4;" the Verizon logo; "It begins;" "2.10.11;" closing with Verizon's retro "Rule the Air" logo.

During the countdown sequence, a voiceover intones, "To our millions of customers, who never stopped believing this day would come, thank you."

The close-up images and heightened sound of ticking clocks are clichés, to be sure. But the concept is apt, underscoring long-building anticipation for the Verizon iPhone after many months of speculation. The succession of simple, print-like messages near the commercial's end is characteristic of Apple's own prior ads for the iPhone.

But since the iPhone has been around for three years now, with 70 million in circulation, Verizon doesn't even have to show the actual device or demonstrate its capabilities. That's not to say in future ads Verizon won't highlight some of the features it will offer with the iPhone, like the ability to use as a mobile hotspot for up to five devices. Nor will it necessarily hold back from taking shots at AT&T's reputation for spotty service in connection with the iPhone in future ads. Verizon wants to lure AT&T defectors after all, right?

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But in this initial ad, Verizon is speaking to its own subscribers, acknowledging their loyalty in sticking with the carrier to finally get the iPhone. The company is covering its "base", in effect, before going after new customers. In any case, Verizon has struck the right tone with its debut iPhone ad, playing off pent-up demand for the device without gloating or going over the top with the lightning-storm theatrics of some of its other ads. (Verizon may have to return to that theme for the HTC Thunderbolt.)

One has to wonder, though, how many Verizon customers, having waited this long, will wait a little bit longer to get the next-generation iPhone, which Apple typically unveils in June or July. That's because if customers want to upgrade to a putative 4G-powered iPhone 5, they would have to break their contracts to do so. If Verizon really wants to thank subscribers, it should waive the $325 early-termination fee to trade in the iPhone 4 when the new model comes along.

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