AT&T Crushed: Court Wont Pull Verizon Map Ads

The folks in AT&T Inc.’s (T) marketing department undoubtedly will spend this weekend hatching new ideas to combat Verizon Communications Inc.’s (VZ) “There’s a Map for That” ads, now that a federal judge has refused to yank the TV commercials.

AT&T does have a small start on that mission – it has released a new spot featuring Luke Wilson slapping magnets on a board, asking questions about who has the best 3G coverage and the most apps.

But, really, AT&T? That has to be the lamest comeback ad we’ve seen. Even Microsoft threw Apple a few good punches once it got sick of the Mac ads. You’re going to have to do better than this. (Plus, don’t know if you’ve heard, but Luke Wilson is not the male equivalent of Catherine Zeta Jones.)

The ad was released as a federal judge on Wednesday denied AT&T’s request that the “There’s a Map for That” ads be pulled from the airwaves. AT&T said Verizon was misleading people about its 3G coverage. Verizon fired back in pithy form, telling the court that AT&T is mad only because “the truth hurts.”

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Batten Sr. seemed to agree. He called Verizon’s ads “sneaky,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but said they are not misleading. Besides, he added, “most people watching TV are semi-catatonic. They’re not fully alive.”

Still, Batten will give AT&T another chance to plead its case. He has scheduled another hearing for Dec. 16.

At issue is AT&T’s real 3G coverage, which has become a sore spot for the company as some iPhone users complain they can’t use all the promised features on their devices and that downloads are slow. Verizon, ahead of the holiday buying blitz, is taking advantage of that weakness with its “Island of Misfit Toys” and other ads that show Verizon’s coverage map chock-full of 3G coverage, unlike its rival’s.

AT&T, for its part, has responded to Verizon’s claims in a letter to customers and through the Luke Wilson commercial. The nation’s second-largest wireless carrier says the map depicting its coverage is blatantly false. AT&T says its network reaches 97 percent of the country and calls its 3G network the nation’s fastest. It throws in one Verizon comparison, saying AT&T’s smartphones are more popular.

As a side note, wonder how long it will be before AT&T releases a “There’s a Gap for That” ad against Verizon? (Not that Verizon has many 3G gaps, but in this snarky ad war, this one has to be forthcoming. If it is, fork over the millions for the idea, AT&T!)

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