*Verizon* Wireless’s new “There’s a map for that” TV ads parody Apple’s oh-so-catchy App Store ads, in an attempt to show that Verizon’s 3G network is more reliable and far-ranging than AT&T’s. Given the droves of U.S. iPhone owners that have openly complained about AT&T’s poor coverage, you’d think that Verizon’s ads are spot on. But AT&T (NYSE: T) is saying they’re wrong — and actually misleading — and has filed a lawsuit to get Verizon (NYSE: VZ) to stop running the campaign.
Engadget has full pdfs of the suit; in it, AT&T hones in on the maps that Verizon shows in the TV commercials, arguing that the map of its 3G network (with large gaps of white space where there is 2G service — but not 3G) could lead consumers to think that AT&T offers incomplete U.S. coverage overall.
“By communicating that AT&T customers have no coverage in large parts of the country, Verizon is misleading the public about an essential component of the services AT&T offers,” the company said. AT&T also used the suit to toot its own horn, noting that it “had lower churn” and “twice the number of smartphone customers” than Verizon, in previous quarters. AT&T previously approached Verizon directly about the ads, which Verizon edited to remove phrases like “out of touch.” The company also included a print disclaimer that told viewers AT&T did offer “voice and data services” outside of the 3G coverage areas — but that clearly wasn’t enough.
This lawsuit isn’t unique, as companies sue each other over ad claims all the time, for example, the NYT notes that Verizon sued Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) last year over its anti-FiOS ads. But for AT&T, the stakes with Verizon’s campaign are higher than average, since there’s speculation that its exclusive deal to sell the iPhone in the U.S. ends next year. If it does, then the stigma of its “horrible” network could send prospective iPhone buyers (and even current subscribers) over to Verizon — a retention battle AT&T seems to be trying to stave off in advance.