The Pitch We've seen this approach before, eh? Looks like one of those AT&T commercials in which a dropped call leads to an awkward situation—a mother spontaneously revealing her sexually licentious past, for example, or Roger Clemens pushing it one season too far. But this schlubby hubby's problem isn't poor reception. Rather, it's the fact that he's just lost $5,800 playing blackjack in Vegas—a revelation he conveniently buries midway through the conversation. His disgruntled, potato-peeling wife doesn't explode, but points out (correctly) that dear hubby seems to be a bloomin' idiot. Good thing the unhappy couple is taking advantage of AT&T's Rollover minutes—a promotion inherited from Cingular—or the call would be sinking them even further into debt. Why has AT&T forsaken its long-running "fewest dropped calls" pitch in favor of stressing its trademarked Rollover deal?
Rip-Off Of This is a rare instance in which a company is, uh, basically ripping off itself. I can't recall another instance in which the basic premise of a previous campaign's TV spots was retained, but the pitch details were altered so significantly. Almost makes me wonder if AT&T's ad agency originally set this up as yet another dropped-calls commercial, then was handed different marching orders at the last moment.
The Spin With its high-end wireless business humming thanks to the iPhone, AT&T is now going after low-end customers by flaunting its value options. Playing up those Rollover minutes is just one piece of the puzzle—the company is also revamping its contracts to make them less draconian, as well as offering a new buy-one-get-on-free Nokia deal. AT&T obviously smells blood in the water, as Sprint continues to hemorrhage dissatisfied customers. True, AT&T is still near the bottom of the brand-loyalty tables, and its customer churn lags behind that of Verizon. But things can change awfully rapidly in the wireless biz.
Counterspin Perhaps the AT&T bigwigs merely decided that their "fewest dropped calls" slogan had run its course. But I've got to think that outside pressure played a major role—no question that the company was playing fast and loose with the truth, especially in light of the latest J.D. Power survey. AT&T could have stuck to its guns by trumpeting its $2.5 billion effort to buy licenses in the 700-MHz frequency. But that plan isn't going to bear fruit for some time—and even when it does, expect the iPhone-lovin' crowd to benefit first, rather than the budget-conscious masses.