Sprint Slices at Verizon, AT&T in Latest National Ads

Deutsch L.A. Produced Spots, but Agency Review Remains in Limbo

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On Tuesday, Sprint announced another price offering, its most ambitious yet. Over the weekend, the carrier will begin a national ad campaign to promote the deal, which directly targets larger rivals Verizon and AT&T.

Sprint has unleashed a torrent of new customer plans -- and varying marketing materials -- since CEO Marcelo Claure joined in August. Its latest move promises to halve the service bills for Verizon and AT&T subscribers who convert to Sprint, a stunt to hemorrhage its steady customer loss. The carrier is also offering to pay early termination fees for subscribers who switch, a move T-Mobile made in January.

Beginning Friday evening, a 30-second spot will air during prime-time on national networks and cable. The carrier is also releasing print ads and a Spanish-language spot, which will begin airing this weekend. Two weeks ago, Sprint kicked off a Hispanic marketing campaign, with ads featuring Mr. Claure.

The carrier's latest offering, and its adversarial marketing, mirrors the aggressive maneuvers from T-Mobile. Under its former CEO Dan Hesse, Sprint largely avoided calling out its bigger competitors by name. "It's probably our most aggressive stance that we've taken," said CMO Jeff Hallock.

Last month, Ad Age reported Mr. Hallock would depart by April 2015, under amicable terms. He'll continue to oversee marketing until his exit.

Deutsch L.A. produced the spots. The agency also made the recent commercial for Sprint's new family plan, which is in heavy rotation and features a braying goat. That spot was pitched as part of an ongoing creative review initiated in September.

"Deutsch L.A. did the creative work on this campaign," said Dave Mellin, a Sprint spokesman. "They are doing some work for us on a project basis." Figliulo & Partners, which Sprint tapped last November, remains the agency of record, Mr. Hallock said. Sprint's contract with Figliulo & Partners had yet to expire as of a month ago, according to executives familiar with the matter.

Since coming on board as CEO, Mr. Claure has been shaking up marketing. He promptly nixed Sprint's earlier 'Framily' campaign and launched the agency review. He's also pledged more aggressive advertising.

Despite the audacity of its new wireless deal, there is fine print. Switching customers would see a price cut in service fees -- for voice, text and data -- but they would need to lease or pay installments for a new phone with Sprint. Earlier this week, Sprint's CFO Joe Euteneuer said the new plan would deliver customers around a 20% discount, according to a report from Re/code.

Walter Piecyk, a BTIG analyst, estimated a family of three on Verizon that switched to Sprint and upgraded iPhone plans, would save around $2 a month. In recent months, Sprint has introduced a series of new offerings, including discounted data and an iPhone leasing program. The new plans "just don't seem compelling enough to move customers to Sprint's existing network," Mr. Piecyk wrote in a blog post.

He added: "It could be that the timing of Sprint's latest promotion is an indication that its current promotions have not gained much traction."

Mr. Hallock would not offer details on the success of the iPhone leasing plan, which launched in October. "It's off to a good start," he said. "We're pleased with the result."

Several years into a network overhaul, Sprint has bled subscribers to Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. In November, Sprint reported a net loss of 272,000 postpaid customers, making it the only carrier among the top four to shed a portion of its lucrative subscriber base during the quarter.

Last year, Sprint spent $1.6 billion in advertising, according to the Ad Age DataCenter.

With contributions from Malika Toure and Maureen Morrison

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