Telecom giant AT&T may be more than happy to partner with Apple, who makes fun of its top competitor daily with the now infamous Mac vs. PC ads, but the company is a little thin skinned when it comes to getting mentioned in its competitor's ads.
Today AT&T sued Verizon over the company's "There's a map for that" Droid ads. AT&T is asking for unspecified damages and a temporary restraining order to keep Verizon from running the ads, which say that AT&T customers are "out of touch" in places that do not have 3G capabilities.
Unfortunately for AT&T, the allegations aren't off base.
AT&T is both profiting from and being hindered by its relationship with the iPhone. While it has made millions from iPhone sales, the increased strain on the network from smartphones has made its service less reliable.
Complaints about AT&T's phone service are common place if you know iPhone users. If not, a quick perusal of the phrase "3G Sucks" brings up a deluge of AT&T complaints. Even Jimmy Fallon got on the bandwagon last night on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," saying:
"It doesn't work as a phone, but everything else is great."
Engadget's Josh Topolsky concurred:
"AT&T's network is not awesome."
AT&T is working on the problem. The company said in October that dropped calls on its 3G network are down 12% and blocked calls on 3G are down 30%.
But the new Verizon commercials draw attention to the matter, and AT&T isn't going to take it lying down. Meanwhile, Verizon doesn't seem too concerned about the lawsuit. Verizon spokesman Jim Gerace tells The Wall Street Journal:
"I think it's interesting that AT&T's chose to focus on the white areas and not the blues area of their map. We think it calls into question their own fastest 3G claim as the map clearly shows where 3G doesn't exist."
Companies sue over aggressive advertising all the time, but AT&T's quick lawsuit is notbale in light of how it highlights a common perception of the brand in the same way that Apple takes on Microsoft in its Mac vs. PC ads.
After years of taking hits from Apple, Microsoft went ahead with rebuttal ads with their "I'm a PC" and "Laptop Hunter" ads. How did Apple take that? Well, they threatened to sue.
And Microsoft edited the ads to take offending wording out without losing their message: that people overpay for Apple product. Meanwhile, Verizon has already altered the ads to remove the phrase "out of touch" after AT&T's lawsuit. But a little wording won't change the fact that Verizon has a point. AT&T network coverage is not awesome. And when AT&T exclusivity contract with Apple expires, Verizon will be in position to profit from that even more.