That recent rare appearance? To introduce its new iPhone 4,
Verizon brought Test Man -- a symbol of the company's "most
reliable" network -- out of hiding to goose AT&T's
often-criticized service. The opportunity was ripe. Not only did
Verizon end AT&T's exclusive hold on iPhone, the two biggest
U.S. carriers are public archrivals -- not strangers to ad wars or,
even, legal battles.
But before that one appearance, Test Man hadn't been in Verizon
ads since the No. 4 ad spender in the U.S. hired McGarryBowen to
handle its wireless business one year ago. But even before McGarry
took the reigns from McCann Erickson last
spring, Verizon pushed its "Map for That" ads contrasting its 3G
coverage against AT&T's, which reached fever pitch in late 2009
when AT&T brought suit for false claims. Test Man wasn't in
those ads either.
With McGarry, Verizon has launched robot- and sci-fi themed
Droid commercials and network ads under the banner "Rule the Air."
Lightning-bolt-themed ads have been used to illustrate the Verizon
network. Again, no Test Man.
Verizon would not provide further comment on the Test Man
character or Mr. Marcarelli. The carrier has been tight-lipped about this pitchman. In
2002, Ad Age revealed Mr. Marcarelli's name for the first
Test Man and his now-ubiquitous tagline "Can you hear me now?"
were the construct of Bozell, New York. The account has changed
hands at least four times since Bozell. Verizon Communications,
across all its divisions, spent $2.2 billion in U.S. measured media
in 2010, according to Kantar Media.
So, why exactly have people not realized Test Man has been
missing, even considering the billions Verizon spent on advertising
not featuring the character?
"When we see the same voice and face over and over, it develops
a comfort level," said telecom analyst Jeff Kagan. Test Man came on
board when Verizon wasn't doing well on the customer-care front,
Mr. Kagan said. "He was the connection to the customer. Verizon
needed that in the beginning, but now people assume Verizon has
"He may represent yesterday, because he's done it for so long,"
Mr. Kagan added. "And Verizon looking forward looks completely
different. To have a consistent message through this transition
period is key, but maybe Verizon has another idea."