Setting the Record Straight about Setting the Record Straight

meAT&T is obviously worried. In my opinion they have a right to be. The Verizon ad campaign (There’s a Map for That) and the pounding AT&T has been receiving for its 3G woes has got to be hurting. AT&T thinks it is hurting enough that they’ve started legal action, asking for an injunction, against Verizon for the ads. While the legal tangles begin, AT&T has also put up a webpage that is aimed at consumers and Setting the Record Straight. That page has taken quite a bit of fire from many corners.

Let’s roll this back and think about it for just a minute. AT&T may have done some work recently to improve its 3G coverage in areas where it exists and expanded it in some areas. I can say that’s true here in my area as the coverage has indeed improved recently. They’ve even made some noise about that. But in the end,  this is about market share and mind share, and of course the biggest tool to create both is advertising. Advertising unfortunately cuts both ways as it creates an impression. We all know about ads that are deceptive, whether blatantly so, or not. Heck, if anyone doubted that all they’d need to do is watch Mad Men. But AT&T let this cat slip out of the bag long before Verizon decided to make its play. Note that the woes with AT&T’s network quickly moved from the blogosphere to the main stream media. AT&T may have been trying to combat the issue by coming clean with its network woes and promises of improvements, but let’s get real for a moment. If you’ve got the hottest product in the last decade that fails on your network in large urban centers full of influentials with big mouths, you’ve lost the battle before you’ve even started, no matter your advertising budget.

Now AT&T is talking apples and oranges with its PR play talking about the number of customers it reaches and where they live as the important statistic. Touting EDGE and GPRS coverage numbers as a part of that strategy is, in my pea brain, akin to advertising Windows by saying you can run a DOS prompt in today’s world. AT&T helped create that perception with its advertising and then failed to deliver on it. They gave Verizon the opening, and Verizon jumped on it. Frankly, I’m surprised it took this long.

I’m reminded of a certain Chicago theatre company that was promoting a production of Our Town. The hype went something like this: When a  great theatre company brings you one of the world’s greatest plays it promises greatness. While the show wasn’t terrible, the reviews focused on the hype in the ads and essentially declared that the production wasn’t great. Game over. Jokes ensued. Legacy created.

You make your bed, you have to lie it. Intriguing when you think of the conjugation of the word lay.