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Wireless Players Spar in Super Bowl Ads

Mon, 02/07/2011 - 7:18am
Andrew Berg

Some notable wireless players took Sunday night's Super Bowl as occasion to show off their marketing skills. Verizon Wireless pitched its iPhone, taking a shot at AT&T in the process. AT&T responded with a word of its own on its version of the iPhone, and Motorola took aim at the iPad with a throwback to the Apple's Orwellian "1984" commercial that attacked Microsoft.

Perhaps the biggest battle of the night, at least amongst advertisers, was Verizon and AT&T's spat over who has the best iPhone/network combination. Verizon's commercial featured a rotating close-up of the iPhone, with a voice-over that states: "It's beautiful, it's intelligent, even genius, but does your network, work?" After that, the iconic Verizon Can-You-Hear-Me-Now guy picks up the iPhone and says, "I can hear you now."

AT&T responded with a commercial that touted the multi-tasking merits of its GSM network. The ad showed a man answering a call from his wife who asks if he has made a reservation for their anniversary. The man scrambles to book the reservation on his iPhone, while talking to his wife on speakerphone. Verizon's CDMA network won't handle data usage (such as surfing the Web) while a voice call is in process.

Displeasure with AT&T's network, however, managed to spill over into the Twittershpere. Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.i.am, who also performed at halftime, had promised to Tweet from the show. Apparently he was unable to do so, as he later tweeted, "At&t??? Wow...no service during halftime...unbelievable."

In the tablet space, Motorola decided it was time to pit the company's forthcoming Xoom tablet against Apple's iPad. Motorola played on Apple's "1984" commercial, which aired in the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII. In that commercial, Apple depicted Microsoft as the Big Brother and Macintosh as the revolutionary company.

Motorola turned the tables, depicting a man using a Xoom tablet in a city inhabited entirely by people dressed in white that all appear to have Apple's signature white headphones in their ears. The commercial is called "Empower the People" and features the slogan, "The tablet to create a better world." Motorola launched a landing page for the Xoom, which will sell for $799 and will be available Feb. 24.

In the end, it was Apple that came out looking like the much coveted and fought-over lover. With Verizon Wireless and AT&T fighting over iPhone customers, Apple didn't even have to create a commercial of its own.

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