Verizon Communications had largely remained above the fray as competitors went increasingly negative, and occasionally nasty, in the mobile industry equivalent of political attack ads.
But Verizon unleashed a new attack ad of its own on Monday, directly criticizing Sprint by name for claiming to have just as good a mobile network. In Sprint’s recent ad, which aired during the NBA finals, former Verizon pitchman Paul Marcarelli says, “Guess what, it’s 2016 and every network is great.”
Verizon fired back with a new 30-second spot featuring Academy Award-winning actor Jamie Foxx standing in front of network coverage maps for Verizon and Sprint.
“Did you know Verizon has more than four times the 4G LTE coverage of Sprint,” Foxx asks. “Sprint is last nationally in 4G LTE coverage,” he added.
The increasingly combative ads comes as growth in the wireless industry is slowing and the big four mobile carriers, including AT&T (T) and T-Mobile, are fighting over a stagnant pool of customers.
Sprint has added double the number of regular, monthly subscribers that Verizon did so far this year. In the second quarter, T-Mobile (TMUS) was the only one of the four to post wireless revenue growth. The other three carriers saw their revenues shrink.
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Verizon’s effort to get more critical also comes just before the carrier’s wireless unit gets a new boss. Former O2 CEO Ronan Donne, who takes over next month, is more outspoken and more savvy about using social networks like Twitter (TWTR) than prior Verizon executives.
Sprint (S) defended the claims in its commercials and accused Verizon (VZ) of “desperate and misleading tactics.”
“Our network covers nearly 300 million people – that’s approximately 94% of the U.S. population,” Sprint said in a statement. “Yes, our footprint is smaller in some markets, but our network covers every major market in the U.S. from Los Angeles to New York, Seattle to Boston, and every big city in between.”
“But when it comes to value, there’s a huge difference,” Sprint added. “Sprint is the clear winner with its 50% off offer. More and more customers are figuring out that they are being ripped off by Verizon.”
Later on Monday, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure took to Twitter to defend his company’s network coverage. “Getting beat in the marketplace doesn’t justify misleading ads or charging people TWICE as much,” Claure said in one of a series of tweets responding to the new Jamie Foxx spot.
Verizon stuck by its assessment that Sprint was exaggerating its network coverage. “It’s clear that the cut rate network carriers are trying to obfuscate what it means to provide great network coverage,” said Jeffrey Nelson, Verizon’s vice president of global communications. By number of subscribers, Sprint is ranked “number four, they’re not even number three anymore,” he added.