No Bars in More Places Than Any Other Network

Make a claim which is true only because of a small disclaimer. Then, repeated it to the point that people take it on face value. Its one of the oldest marketing ploys in the book and it’s what AT&T is doing with their “More Bars in More Places” campaign. You’ve seen them. TV ads that present a humorous situation, often based in the US, where someone isn’t receiving an important call because they don’t have AT&T. The disclaimer at the bottom clarifies that “More Bars in More Places than any other Network” is based on Global coverage. So yes, technically AT&T has more bars in more places, but does the target domestic audience really care that I can get AT&T Wireless coverage outside of the US. I don’t think so. Without the disclaimer, their domestic coverage does not live up to the claim. From Ad Age:

Consumers ‘equate bars with satisfaction and quality. It might work if people believe it.’ “Consumer Reports doesn’t. In its 2006 telecommunications survey, which was conducted last September and tallied the surveys of 42,000 readers, AT&T, formerly Cingular, had average or worse scores for dropped calls in the 20 cities it surveyed. As for ‘more bars’ or, as the Consumer Reports survey put it, no service,’ Cingular also was rated as average or worse in each city with the exception of Dallas, where it was rated better than average.

This campaign replaced the “Fewest Dropped Calls” campaign which ended last year. AT&T was unable to support that claim, even with a disclaimer. It seems AT&T has a history of using deceptive marketing tactics to make their product sound better than it really is.

As a customer of less than a year, I am constantly frustrated by seeing “No Service” on my phone in places that should (and according to AT&T’s coverage map, do) have coverage. Perhaps they should have another disclaimer that says “as long as you are not inside a building, like your house”! It’s bad enough that their service does not live up to expectations. What irks me the most is the frequent running of those TV spots which are clearly meant to put lipstick on a pig. Every time I see one of those ads, I feel compelled to requote the tagline, “No Bars in More Places than any other Network”.


17 comments so far

  1. David on

    I’ve seriously considered giving up my iPhone and going back to Verizon because of the horrible call quality and lack of service I get on AT&T’s network. I’m “laughing” right now because my phone just flipped to “No Service” and I’m sitting in my house.

  2. Jon Burg on

    To be totally honest, when I first switched to Cingular (now at&t) it was because I just couldn’t stand Verizon. While at&t’s customer service is only minimally better than Verizon’s, they do take care of you when you pull your clout as a blogger.

    Not a great way to do business, but it gets things done.

    Overall, I haven’t found at&t to be that much worse than Verizon or Sprint in and around the NYC area. Call quality just isn’t as good, but I almost always have great reception on my Sony Ericsson phone. Could this be an iPhone issue?

  3. Lou Paglia on

    I, too, am a AT&T no coverage in my house victim. I have no idea why the coverage is so bad.

  4. Doug Meacham on

    David, You are not the first person to say that. I wonder how much consideration Apple gave to how the partnership would reflect on them over time?

    Jon, I guess the overriding point here is that none of the wireless carriers offer consistently great coverage domestically. In my neck of the woods, the perception (and reality in my experience) is that Verizon will have coverage in places nobody else will. I usually have no problems in large metro areas, but get out to more suburban or rural places and it’s hit or miss. iPhone could be part of the issue. I have a great story about that.

    Lou, I guess we will have to continue to suffer together if we want to stay with the iPhone.

  5. Robin on

    Followed this link from Twitter. Before you curse AT&T (albeit it’s probably justified), it might actually be your phone. We live in an area that it seems ONLY AT&T works and my husband and I have two different phones. His phone gets great reception pretty much everywhere. However, my phone will display 0 bars where his displays 5. He can make phone calls in the same places where I cannot. So maybe it really is an iPhone issue?

  6. Doug Meacham on

    Robin, As I hinted in my earlier comment, the iPhone can absolutely have reception problems. Specifically, if you hold the phone so that the black plastic area on the back (where the antenna is) is covered by your palm, you can easily lose a couple of bars if the signal is marginal.

  7. David on

    Yeah, I have to echo that experience. My wife and I are on a family plan with AT&T. I have an iPhone, she has a RAZR 2. In-building coverage is usually where I experience most of my signal strength problems, but it’s not atypical for her to have several bars when I have absolutely no service whatsoever. So it’s quite possibly an iPhone issue.

    On the other hand, several friends were with CIngular just before the AT&T switchover — they were unable to get consistent service with their non-iPhone handsets at such rural, isolated stretches of road such as Skipwith & Three Chopt in Henrico County! So who knows…

    I’ve owned a lot of different phones and have used most of the carriers around here and in Canada: Suncom, AT&T, Alltel, T-Mobile, Verizon, Telus, and Rogers. Verizon is, hands-down, the only one I would recommend (despite my love for the iPhone).

  8. Valeria Maltoni on

    I’ve been lucky, I guess. I was a Cingular customer, now the new AT&T and I have an iPhone that works (she writes crossing fingers that it stays that way;-).

    Your post title cracked me up!

  9. customer service surveys on

    […] marketing ploys in the book and it??s what AT&ampT is doing with their ???More Bars in More Places?? Satisfaction Business Survey Templates For Free Internet …Ideal for inclusion with any […]

  10. GF on

    I agree, “NO BARS in more places”, if in a grocery store, resturant, my house, or anywhere in a building I have no service! I hate to see those ATT comercials, its false advertising!!! More bars in more places? I think whoever came up with that must have been drunk and hitting “more bars in more places”!

    Why isnt the better buisness people doing anything about this?

  11. RDH on

    LESS BARS IN MORE PLACES: My wife has an iPhone, I have a Blackberry, both on AT&T. I cringe every time I see the AT&T ads.
    We have had Alltel and Sprint and gotten 3 to 4 out of 5 bars in our home. With AT&T the iPhone seldom works and the Blackberry works next to a window, sometimes. My wife had be place a bench outside in our front yard so she could make calls. Our neighbor with an iPhone put in a cell phone booster.
    The problem is simple, AT&T is spending more money on marketing then infrastructure. One rumor that may provide hope: Since Verizon bought Alltel, they have towers that they will be giving up because of duplication. My local AT&T rep. says AT&T will be buying (renting) those sites from now till March 2009 when he thinks the coverage will be better.

  12. Lilly White on

    I’m actually really upset at their latest in this bunch of advertisements. The series has shown people as you say ridiculous situations, where are by no means life threatening. Though I would argue that the jail one is a bad situation to be in, its not exactly life threatening. The latest one however, which happens the first one with a “latino/hispanic” person in their campaign shows a “english named Sanchez” about to be blast off in a building demolition. I find this completely diminishing of life of those who could identify with this man in image!! and there fore extremely racist…I’m going to have to leave AT%T because I cannot support a business which is racist in such a way!!!

  13. […] have experienced No Bars in More Places with AT&T since we have lived out here. I use my phone for work and often times if you were to […]

  14. Beth on

    My husband and I use Virgin Mobile, a pay as you go plan. Often we have only decent coverage but not always and thought it was because we had cheap phones/cheap plans. I had considered switching to ATT so that we’d have ‘more bars’. Glad I didn’t. Our bill is so cheap this way.

  15. […] 7:30am – While paying my cell phone bill online, I noticed that even though my cell phone contract expires in two months, I’m not eligible for a phone upgrade for another year and a half. That’s odd. Doing what any rational person would do, I decide to call the carrier that (at one point) promised “more bars in more places.” […]

  16. […] 7:30am – While paying my cell phone bill online, I noticed that even though my cell phone contract expires in two months, I’m not eligible for a phone upgrade for another year and a half. That’s odd. Doing what any rational person would do, I decide to call the carrier that (at one point) promised “more bars in more places.” […]

  17. Consulting Kevin on

    I’m glad I never switched from Verizon and just waited the iPhone exclusivity out.

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