In the first commercial ever to be more annoying than the “Can you hear me now?” ads, Verizon’s latest commercial series, “There’s a map for that,” is a direct attack on AT&T and their “There’s an app for that” iPhone-related marketing campaign.
The ad shows two maps comparing AT&T and Verizon’s 3G network coverage area, with Verizon’s map covering vastly more territory. Now, AT&T had filed suit against Verizon in the Northern District of Georgia, seeking an injunction to prevent further use of the maps in advertising. AT&T alleges that the maps are misleading, as although the Verizon map indicates total coverage, AT&T’s map only indicates a of its network area. This is because Verizon uses only 3G networks. In contrast, the 3G network is only a tiny footprint of AT&T total coverage, which also includes the slower but still usable 2.5G network. AT&T claims, therefore, that the maps are falsely claiming AT&T only has coverage, of any sort, in the tiny blue shaded areas.
Verizon has already changed the ads once before in response to AT&T complaints. Originally, the ad included the words “Out of touch,” which were removed, and Verizon added in small script “Voice & data services available out of 3G coverage areas.” With that modification, I fail to see what meager claim AT&T has remaining. Yes, I am sure many consumers are bad at reading maps and forget to pay sufficient attention to the legends, but that’s, well, advertising. There is nothing at all incorrect or even directly misleading about the advertising campaign — Verizon is just counting on people’s passive ignorance. It’s not nearly as shady as, say, mucking about with the y-axis on two graphs and claiming they show comparable figures.
I’m actually surprised AT&T didn’t just go all out and add in a meritless copyright or trademark infringement claim for the “there’s a map for that” slogan. Instead of going for the obvious meat, however, AT&T appears to have opted for the “Americans are stupid so ads cannot be at all complex” attack.
As discussed before on this blog, maps are inherently nonobjective. To claim that Verizon’s map is “misleading” is the same as claiming its “misleading” to depict a map with Greenland the same size as Africa. AT&T may not like the subject matter which Verizon chose to depict in its maps, but there is nothing incorrect or deceptive about them; they show precisely what they say the map shows, which is a comparison of 3G networks.