AT&T’s ad spending outpaces Verizon’s — by a long stretch

June 10, 2011

Anybody who wondered how AT&T managed to stand up against the Verizon Wireless  February iPhone launch wasn’t paying much attention to their TV set.

AT&T had been assuring investors for much of 2010 that its numbers wouldn’t fall off a cliff  if  arch-rival Verizon Wireless got its hands on iPhone, ending its exclusivity.  The logic was that customers wouldn’t want to break their two-year contracts.  Most customers were also tied to AT&T via family plans, making it even more tricky for them to leave.

Still, AT&T wasn’t about to leave it to chance. So it went about things the old-fashioned way: it threw money into advertising.

New figures show AT&T’s first-quarter  wireless marketing budget was double that of  Verizon Wireless. In the first three months of the year AT&T spent a whopping $451.83 million on wireless advertising compared with Verizon’s relatively modest $227 million spend, according to a report from advertising research firm Kantar Media.

And when it came to iPhone-specific ads  AT&T’s spending stood out even more, at  triple that of Verizon’s. AT&T spent $100.9 million on iPhone advertising in the first quarter compared with a $34.5 million outlay at bigger rival Verizon Wireless, according to Kantar, which said the vast majority was spent on TV ads.

While Verizon’s iPhone ad spend peaked in February with a $22 million outlay and dropped to $2.9 million in March, AT&T’s iPhone spending crept up steadily. After starting at $13.4 million in January it ended the quarter with a March spend of $55.4 million, Kantar said.

In the end, AT&T’s first quarter customer numbers were still hurt by the Verizon iPhone — but not as much as the company or its followers had feared. Ah, the power of TV.

(Photo: Reuters on Verizon iPhone launch day. Crowds were sparser than many expected)

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