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Ad watchdog group recommends Verizon Wireless pull PTT marketing campaign: VZW ads claim rivals’ ‘old service is useless now’

Verizon Wireless’ claims of its rivals’ “useless” push-to-talk service ticked off PTT veteran Sprint Nextel Corp. – and the carrier appears to be rightfully angry. The Council of Better Business Bureaus reviewed Verizon Wireless’ PTT advertising, and recommended the carrier discontinue its current campaign.
Verizon Wireless’ ad campaign coincides with the launch of its newly redesigned PTT service.
Sprint Nextel challenged some of Verizon Wireless’ PTT advertising before NAD (The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus), saying that certain claims in the ads were attacking Sprint Nextel with false implications. The claims under examination were from a television and a radio commercial and included the phrases:
“We all upgraded to Verizon Wireless. Got push to talk and the reliability of the network. That old service is useless now.”
“Don’t be the last one standing with another push to talk. Switch to the only one that comes with the network.”
“Hello? Anyone there? Why am I always getting disconnected? I’ve got to get something better.”
“Are you suffering with a push-to-talk phone that drops the ball on regular calls? Don’t push your luck with your push to talk. Make the switch to Verizon Wireless and the reliability of the network.”
Sprint Nextel believed the statements could misinform viewers that its PTT service is useless, is currently inoperable, that the number of Sprint Nextel’s PTT subscribers is declining so quickly that those who want to use it will have no one to connect to, that the network repeatedly disconnects calls, or that the PTT network will soon be discontinued.
NAD ultimately agreed with Sprint Nextel, and found that the Verizon Wireless ads did imply Sprint Nextel’s service is useless now and that its service was being decommissioned or was soon to be discontinued. While NAD did not make a ruling forcing Verizon Wireless to pull the ads, they recommend that the carrier discontinue the claims.
Verizon Wireless stood by its advertisements, saying that it relied on NAD decisions when creating the commercials, but noted that the ads at issue have been pulled as part of the carrier’s normal course of business.
Interestingly, Sprint Nextel recently decided to continue its commitment to its iDEN-based network with a new deal with equipment supplier Motorola Inc.
NAD has been busy in the wireless space. Verizon Wireless had frustrations of its own recently with AT&T Mobility ads that claimed it had a superior network. NAD agreed with Verizon Wireless’ claims and recommended that AT&T Mobility modify the message. AT&T Mobility chose to ignore the advice.

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