Thursday, September 4, 2014

Sprint and the demise of advertising.

A lot of people, at least a lot of people in my circles, have been flapping their gums about Sprint firing its agency and, more specifically, the failure of $800 million in advertising to move the Sprint brand forward.

They're crowing, a lot of these people. "See," they proclaim, loudly and proudly, "this is proof that advertising is dead." That even nearly one-billion dollars of the stuff can't save Sprint from doom--either being subsumed by another Telco or flushed into oblivion.

A decade ago I worked at the agency that handled the Sprint account. As I was then considered a very smart guy (I'm no longer considered smart. Just opinionated and loud.) I was asked not to work on Sprint, but to attend one meeting with some important Sprint people and to talk--somewhat extemporaneously about successful brand transformations.

Accordingly, I read, and I re-read yesterday, the agency's deck on the decline and fall of Sprint.

1. Their messages were mixed
2. They can't win the price war
3. They don't stand for anything--there's nothing to believe in

Those were and are the maladies affecting the Sprint brand. They weren't solved by James Earl Jones or the Frobisons.

They weren't solved by special pricing.

As Gertrude Stein was purported to say about Oakland, "there's no there there."

There's also no there when it comes to Sprint.

It's not that Advertising (capital A) has failed. Their advertising has.

And one other thing, and I think, in part, this is being proved by the slight revitalization of the American auto industry.

Sprint can succeed if they make a better product.

They're me too now and that ain't good enough.

Buick came back, not because their ads got less sucky, but because their cars did.

If Sprint decides to act like the Nordstrom's of telcos, they'll come back. And if they advertise intelligently and consistently, they will have a chance.

Yes, I do believe it's that simple.

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