Failures

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
advertising, ghetto, marcelo claure, pr

Companies:
sprint, t-mobile



Sprint Customer Listening Tour Goes Sour, Company Has To Pull Ad Calling T-Mobile A 'Ghetto'

from the bungled-PR dept

Poor Sprint. Ever since T-Mobile became the darling of the wireless industry simply for treating consumers well (ingenious!), Sprint hasn't quite known what to do with itself. After T-Mobile leap-frogged Sprint to become the nation's third-largest carrier last year, Sprint has been trying desperately to convince customers that hey, it's really cool too. But Sprint has found it hard to shake the image that it's little more than a decidedly unhip copycat with a less competent network. A lot of Sprint's PR struggles have been thanks to the fact that it hasn't been easy keeping up with T-Mobile's foul-mouthed, hipster-esque CEO, John Legere.

Sprint's latest effort was to involve a series of ads featuring Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure sitting down with hundreds of "normal folk" in 10 different cities to, apparently, make fun of T-Mobile. Unfortunately the company's very first ad in the series has ruffled more than a few feathers for being little more than thirty seconds of people laughing at the idea of T-Mobile as a "ghetto":
So yes, the idea of an ad in which a group of mostly white people sit around laughing at the idea of ghettos just isn't something most PR departments would sign off on. Sprint unsurprisingly had to pretty quickly pull the ad, and Claure headed to Twitter to insist that the company was just trying to have a conversation with regular folk:
And Sprint's adventures in bad PR could have ended there, were it not for a follow up exchange between one annoyed customer and Claure, in which the CEO lectured a Latino man on just how he should behave while being offended:
Right, except that as a CEO you made $21.8 million in fiscal year 2014, making your life experiences notably...different. You're also supposed to be conducting a customer listening tour, remember? So even if your intentions were good and you don't agree with your customers being offended, you were supposed to be listening to them. Not giving them a lecture on how or when they're allowed to be offended. All in all it's another example of how, even with funding from Japan's SoftBank propping up its sagging reputation, Sprint just can't seem to get out of its own way and find a path to consumers' hearts.

Maybe next time just try lower prices and a better network?

Reader Comments

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  • identicon
    Glen, 13 Apr 2016 @ 1:01pm

    A better network would be a start. That is the main reason I left them a couple of years ago. It was simply pathetic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Chris Rhodes (profile), 13 Apr 2016 @ 1:19pm

      Re:

      When I moved out into the boonies a year ago, my T-Mobile connection was really spotty at my house and quite a few of the roads on the way to my house. Now it's completely solid everywhere. I think they've been rapidly building out their network.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Apr 2016 @ 1:35pm

        Re: Re:

        T-Mobile's network has noticeably improved since I signed up with them around 2 years ago. Yet with no contract, they're not charging me a dime more than they were then.

        And I should give that up because they got some goobers to laugh at my carrier on TV?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Apr 2016 @ 1:42pm

        Re: Re:

        T-Mobile?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Apr 2016 @ 1:43pm

        Re: Re:

        T-mobile's network has improved noticeably in the 2 years since I signed up with them. And despite not having a contract, the amount I pay them hasn't gone up a dime.

        And I'm supposed to give it up because they got some dorks to laugh at my carrier on TV?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Glen, 13 Apr 2016 @ 1:48pm

        Re: Re:

        Sorry I should have elaborated. Sprint's network is what I was referring to. Their 3G data became unusable even in good signal areas.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 13 Apr 2016 @ 1:10pm

    The corporate idea of "listening"

    This isn't about Sprint in particular, but is a mainstay fixture of tons of companies. They have no idea what "listening" means.

    From that ad, it's clear they think "listening" means "holding a focus group". Which is wrong on many levels, but especially so when that focus group is clearly going to be fed a very nice meal afterwards (based on the place settings).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DB (profile), 13 Apr 2016 @ 1:22pm

    Wow. Just wow. What a video.

    I thought that this was the usual over-blown hang-wringing. But now that I've seen the commercial, it's hard to believe that there wasn't someone with a tiny bit of sense to stop them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ATee&Tee, 13 Apr 2016 @ 1:23pm

    Tells user not to pull the race card... while pulling race card. Priceless.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Apr 2016 @ 1:28pm

    Is it just me, or did those 'apologies' come off as blaming the customers?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 13 Apr 2016 @ 1:33pm

      Re:

      It was 100% that.

      Which is truly hilarious, because it wasn't the people talking who decided that was the 30 seconds (or what was undoubtedly a few hours of footage) that should be edited into a commercial and aired.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Michael, 13 Apr 2016 @ 2:09pm

      Re:

      Yes, they appear to have confused "I am sorry, we were not very respectful of some groups of people" with "I am really sorry that one of these asshole customers that we were forced to speak to said something that offended other asshole customers that we are even less interested in listening to".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        orbitalinsertion (profile), 14 Apr 2016 @ 12:52am

        Re: Re:

        It's because "being offended" (or something someone decided to frame as "being offended") is the problem, a weakness. It isn't that someone says something wrong and bigoted whether anyone is offended or not. At least not anyone worth speaking of.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 14 Apr 2016 @ 12:48am

      Re:

      Classic not-pology, yes.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    PRMan, 13 Apr 2016 @ 2:08pm

    Quick

    Which of the 4 CEOs grew up in the ghettos of Guatemala, Morocco, Dominican Republic and Bolivia?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Apr 2016 @ 2:39pm

    And cue Sprint using terms such as "sit on it", groovy, acid, "man" and references to 1970s and 1980s tv shows like Happy days in a desperate old mans attempt to be with it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DB (profile), 13 Apr 2016 @ 2:47pm

    That was not "organic" original footage. Watch the camera work, and the angles. This was scripted and staged.

    The words might have been the same as the original comments, and those actors might be actual customers, but I doubt that those were the same people that made the original comments.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), 13 Apr 2016 @ 4:50pm

    Happy with Ting. Which BTW is an MVNO for both aforementioned companies.

    Meantime... This reeks of political campaigns. Vote for me because the other guy sucks instead of vote for me because of my values. Not a way to sell yourself, you just look petty.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Whatever (profile), 13 Apr 2016 @ 5:30pm

    For what it's worth, they didn't say that T-Mobile was "a ghetto" rather than T-mobile was "ghetto". The difference is significant.

    Basically, it's to suggest it's cheap, jury rigged, or for the lower classes. It's like a rusty car with brand new twanky deuces on it. It's ghetto.

    The funny part is that in that sense, it's even more insulting. Just calling it a slide area wouldn't be as bad.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Apr 2016 @ 7:01pm

    a group of mostly white people?

    fo real? whut wuz they thinkin?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 14 Apr 2016 @ 2:01am

    Confused as to the point.

    Is calling T-Mobile ghetto or suggesting that someone thinks of T-Mobile as ghetto supposed to suggest that Sprint as a phone service has more prestige?

    Unless someone directly asks, people don't know what my telecom service is (my phone was purchased from the manufacturer, not from a telecom service provider). Since I can generally get a signal when I want one, why would I care what people associate with the service provider?

    Trying to sell Sprint as a more socially upscale service seems to suggest that they don't have anything better to offer (e.g. faster data, wider coverage, fewer outages, better customer service, cheaper rates...)

    If all they can offer is you will be less embarrassed by your telecom service provider, then they must not have any more substantial way to differentiate their service from their competitors.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rfk, 14 Apr 2016 @ 4:50am

    Yes. Sprint sucks....but

    Are we really going to hold Sprint responsible for what is said by a third party in a crappy attempt to connect and be responsive? Isn't that one, I r even two, of our major points? Dbag CxO said something mildly offensive, if playing a race card is only something an aggravated consumer is allowed to do. Bs? Yup. Bad idea? Uh huh. Something we should start a bed of coals for and prepare the spit? Not yet. We need a little internal consistency here. As poorly conceived as the attempt was, we need to give them credit for it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 14 Apr 2016 @ 6:10am

      Re: Yes. Sprint sucks....but

      Well, since it's an ad that Sprint bought and paid for, and presumably approved the use of, then yes -- why is it a bad thing to mock Sprint for something they did?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DB (profile), 14 Apr 2016 @ 3:05pm

    Watch the video carefully.

    The first scene is an establishing shot. It's a camera angle that might conceivably been used for a focus group. The camera angle is slightly high, with a wide depth of field. It captures most of the people at the table, but certainly not all of them. You don't notice it, but it's very steady.

    Combined with the captioning, you now believe that it's a hidden camera at a focus group. Your stop thinking about the situation.

    The next camera shot is a smooth cut while the woman is still speaking. If asked later, you probably remember it as the same shot. But this camera is centered on the "moderator" and "panel woman", with a shallow depth of field. The camera is subtly moving slightly, but never quickly or losing center. This is a video trick to keep your attention.

    This was absolutely a staged scene, created by professionals. They thought carefully about the "feel" of the result when they selected the cameras, lenses and mounts. The second camera was carefully aimed, it was locked to a shallow depth of field -- something you wouldn't do in a unscripted situation. And the focus was locked on just the woman talking.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2016 @ 5:52pm

    The first thing that comes to mind when I hear T-Mobile is poor signal coverage.

    The first thing that comes to mind when I hear Sprint is even worse signal coverage than T-Mobile.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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