Maybe the cell phone companies should be patenting their spokespeople instead.
Sprint's prepaid arm, Virgin Mobile, took aim at T-Mobile spokeswoman "Carly" and an AT&T caricature in its latest advertisement.
In the opening, Virgin Mobile-created celebrity couple "Sparah" (Spencr + Sarah) enter a familiar white room in which a dippy-faced version of the model-esque Carly Foulkes is hanging out with a balding, four-eyed AT&T spokesman.
"Look at this place, it's so depressing," Spencer says to Sarah.
"Totally! Just wait til we're taken over by AT&T who's last in customer satisfaction!" Carly interjects. Burn!
The background then transforms into a nightclub, which is the way Virgin's Sparah depicts its service.
Looking completely out of place in the middle of the dance floor, Carly throws the last ironic barb at T-Mobile: "I'm contractually obligated to enjoy this!"
If all the nuances were lost on you, well, we don't blame you. The carriers love their insider jokes.
Basically Virgin Mobile, channeling Sprint, is attacking AT&T and T-Mobile's recent decisions to pull the plug on unlimited data plans and double its obligatory contracts on all smartphones to two years. Last month T-Mobile unveiled a new series of "value" plans with unlimited data, that require a two-year contract.
"T-Mobile has anointed itself as the value leader in wireless," Bob Stohrer, vice president of marketing for Virgin Mobile USA, said in a statement. "Yet they've conveniently left Virgin Mobile out of their comparison set, so we're crashing their party. No matter how you dress their plans up, they're no match for Virgin Mobile's no-contract, Unlimited Data offering at $35/month coupled with Android-powered phones like the new Motorola Triumph."
"It's a competitive market and we're not going to shy away from an opportunity to debate things publicly so that consumers can see both sides of a story," he added.
The commercial also comments on the $39 billion proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile, a deal to which Sprint is vehemently opposed. Sprint CEO Daniel Hesse claims it'll turn the U.S. cell phone market into a price-hiking duopoly.
Lastly, Virgin's ad also attacks the one glimmer of promise in T-Mobile's otherwise disappointing second quarter earnings report: prepaid. Prepaid subscribers generate only a fraction of what postpaid users generate, and the market was usually been left to providers like Cricket and Boost/Virgin. But as competition and subscriber losses rattle postpaid giants AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint, perhaps this means they are shifting some of their efforts and we'll see more smartphone options added to their contract-free plans.