SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- AT&T is walking away from the legal dispute that has spawned a high-stakes, multimillion-dollar advertising war.
The wireless carrier is dropping a lawsuit it filed in November in which it alleged that Verizon's advertising was misleading consumers into thinking AT&T offers no service where it has no 3G network. Verizon has also dropped its suit against AT&T -- one it initiated in July which has largely escaped the media-- that sought a ruling to affirm the accuracy of various Verizon claims including "America's Most Reliable 3G Network." Verizon's move came shortly after AT&T filed a challenge with the National Advertising Division of the Council for the Better Business Bureau, alleging the claims were unsubstantiated.
AdAge.com's ad war roundup"Take That, iPhone: Verizon's Map for That Ad Goes Viral," Oct. 15, 2009
"New Verizon Ads Take Direct Aim at iPhone, But What Are They Selling?" Oct. 19. 2009
"AT&T Sues Verizon Over 3G Network Comparison in TV Ad," Nov. 4, 2009
"AT&T Missteps With Verizon Ad-Claim Lawsuit," Nov. 9, 2009
"Verizon Exiles iPhone to Island of Misfit Toys for the Holidays," Nov. 16, 2009
"Verizon Wins Round 1 in Legal Spat With AT&T," Nov. 18, 2009
"AT&T's Verizon Lawsuit Gives 'Map for That' Ad New Life," Nov. 19, 2009
"AT&T Strikes Back at Verizon With Its Own Comparison Campaign," Nov. 19, 2009
"Verizon vs. AT&T: Blistering Battle Raging Over Map," Nov. 30, 2009
"Dirty Politics Won't Help AT&T Win Votes in Race vs. Verizon," Nov. 30, 2009
"VIDEO: Verizon CMO John Stratton on the 'Map' War With AT&T," Dec. 2, 2009
The new development comes a day after rankings by a Consumer Reports survey put Verizon first in customer satisfaction and AT&T dead last. The survey involved 50,000 respondents in 26 cities. Verizon scored above average on every attribute including customer support, voice connectivity and data service. AT&T scored low on everything but web and texting.
"I'm not surprised at all [by the news]," said Andrei Jezierski, a partner at marketing consultancy i2 Partners. "It seemed like a no-win situation for AT&T. There's more than anecdotal evidence that there's issues with their network, and making a big issue of it is counterproductive."
The legal spat had its roots in Verizon's "There's a map for that" commercial that both spoofs the Apple iPhone "there's an app for that" ads and slams AT&T's network coverage. The map compares its own dense service coverage against AT&T's sparser 3G coverage. At a hearing last month, a federal judge denied AT&T's request that Verizon yank its map ads, but allowed AT&T to make its case again this month. Verizon's campaign was a response to AT&T's strong performance this year, as the No.2 carrier has been adding customers at a faster clip than Verizon, thanks to the iconic iPhone, of which AT&T is the exclusive carrier.