Paul Marcarelli, aka "Test Man" from the Verizon Wireless ad campaign that made "Can you hear me now?" a cultural catchphrase, told The Atlantic in a recent interview he's being phased out of the carrier's TV ads. The actor explained Verizon is heading in a "different direction" for advertising, ending his 10-year run as the bespectacled face of the company.
The move doesn't come as a huge surprise, given Verizon in the last couple of years has increasingly thrown its marketing muscle behind individual smartphone models including the Droid, and more recently, the HTC ThunderBolt. Test Man appeared in one of the Verizon TV spots promoting the iPhone 4, but that looks more like a farewell cameo than anything else. And even there, he was reduced to the role of supporting player to the campaign's real star -- the Apple device itself.
The original ads featuring Test Man and his small army of Verizon technicians were all about emphasizing the network's reliability and nationwide coverage. The ability to deliver mobile voice calls without incident has long been a central part of Verizon's marketing, hence its long-time tag line of being "America's most reliable wireless network."
The carrier appears to have backed up that claim most recently with its launch of the iPhone 4. A Consumer Reports test and a separate ChangeWave survey of iPhone users indicate Verizon customers have experienced fewer dropped calls than those of AT&T.
But as Verizon continues rolling out 4G service around the country, it wouldn't be surprising to see the company take a page from AT&T's playbook and begin to highlight the speed of its network. It already began running ads touting the speed of its LTE 4G network late last year, with Test Man nowhere in sight. With all the lightening imagery used in the ads, he might've been in danger.
With AT&T behind Verizon in its own rollout of LTE, look for Verizon to press its advantage in that regard, with a growing emphasis on delivering fast mobile data connections. But who will be Verizon's 4G Man? The Flash? He's got the right corporate color, anyway.