There’s an easily misinterpreted map for that

I’ve been meaning to write about Verizon’s “There’s a map for that” commercials since I first saw them, but now that AT&T is suing, this seems like a good time to remedy my oversight.

The issue AT&T has with the maps in this commercial is, in my opinion, a legitimate one: Verizon’s entire network is 3G, so the gaps on the red map really are gaps. But AT&T maintains a large 2G (EDGE) network, in addition to its rather spotty 3G network. So the white parts of the AT&T map don’t necessarily represent dead zones for AT&T customers.

But there’s another issue with this map, and it’s the same problem I have with election result maps: the U.S. population is not evenly distributed across the physical landscape. It certainly looks bad that AT&T offers no 3G service anywhere in the four-state region of Montana, Wyoming and North and South Dakota. But the collective population of those states is under 3 million — representing about 1% of the total U.S. population — distributed over 393,000 square miles — representing 10.4% of total U.S. land area. That’s less people than in the St. Cloud/Twin Cities/Rochester blob of blue across east-central Minnesota in the map, and it’s far less than the over 4 million people in the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn — an area under 100 square miles.

So, as I’ve said before while studying election maps, the colored areas don’t really tell the true story. Maybe AT&T has a lot of gaps in its map, but there aren’t very many people in those gaps, either.

Now, this is not to go too far in defense of AT&T in this situation. I haven’t had any significant problems with AT&T’s 3G coverage in Minneapolis (although I have noticed my iPhone occasionally dropping down to the EDGE network — a situation that reminds me of Mitch Hedberg’s joke about escalators), but as the Engadget article notes, there are apparently major problems with their network in the most densely-populated areas of the country — San Francisco and New York.

Perhaps the most interesting thing for me in this article, though, is the following claim from AT&T:

Verizon’s misleading advertising tactics appear to be a response to AT&T’s strong leadership in smartphones. We have twice the number of smartphone customers… and we’ve beaten them two quarters in a row on net post-paid subscribers. We also had lower churn — a sign that customers are quite happy with the service they receive.

It’s no secret that much of AT&T’s recent success, especially where smartphones are concerned, is due solely to the iPhone. And it’s also no secret that it’s the iPhone hardware/software combo, not AT&T’s service, that iPhone owners are overwhelmingly satisfied with. Consider AT&T’s exclusive rights to the iPhone, and that pretty much negates any value in AT&T’s claim to customer satisfaction.

Were we really once so easily amazed?

Technology has come a long way since the ’80s. I remember this commercial. I don’t remember it seeming so utterly stupid. Maybe that’s because I was only about 10 when it originally aired. Or maybe it’s because back then this was cutting-edge.

All I know is, the phrase “sneaker phone” sounds way more natural to me than it should. I guess this commercial embedded itself in my subconscious all those years ago, permanently tainting my worldview.

Source: Merlin Mann

Update: 1991? Holy crap. Yeah, I didn’t watch it far enough when I first posted this to hear the voice-over guy say, in a semi-lewd tone, “the revealing 1991 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue” (cue whistles). Since that comes out in February (or so I’m told), that would mean this commercial is most likely from 1990 or very early 1991, meaning I was 16 when it aired. You’d think by then I’d have been old enough, or at least jaded adolescent enough, to see how utterly stupid it was. Maybe.

The Comcast rabbit commercial makes me want to gouge my eyeballs out

What little research I’ve done seems to suggest that most people who’ve bothered to react to it actually like this commercial, but I find it highly disturbing and totally unpleasant. It is ugly and stupid, and I hate it.

So, of course, I need to subject you to it.

OK. I just watched the whole thing now, and the 60-second version shown here is actually slightly funny with the voice over. But the 30-second version they actually show on TV all the time around here is all of the scary and ugly stuff with the funny removed, and is just a half minute of suck.

I can’t imagine anything convincing me to go to Denny’s… but this comes close

In this post-postmodern era, it’s difficult to admit to enjoying the humor of a mainstream TV commercial without a trace of irony, but… I freakin’ love this commercial. In particular I love the stoned unicorn. And apparently I’m not alone. You can read a slightly more insightful comment on the commercial here.

Update: After watching it for about the 20th time, I finally caught this exchange: when the leprechaun puts the pot of gold on the table and the server says “Do you have anything smaller?” the unicorn says “He’s like already tiny!” I’m usually laughing too much by that point to be able to make out what he says.