and the payer
Racing to net new customers, Comcast and Qwest try to poke fun
at each other without tripping up
By Andy Vuong, Staff Writer
Monday, September 25, 2006
It might not be Coke vs. Pepsi,
but the advertising battle between Qwest and Comcast is
beginning to sizzle.
Comcast took the first swing earlier this year with an
advertising campaign that poked fun at the digital subscriber
line, or DSL, high-speed Internet service offered by Qwest and
other telephone companies. The ads featured the Slowskys, a
couple of turtles, and the tagline "DSL - way slower than
Comcast high-speed Internet."
Denver-based Qwest struck back against the turtles with a spoof
of "The Price Is Right."
In the campaign, expected to run through the end of the year,
Qwest takes a dig at the perception that cable companies
repeatedly raise their prices after a low introductory offer.
Qwest has a cable Internet customer named Bob play a "Jack My
Price Up" game in which he gets excited as his price soars.
A voice-over tells people to "stop playing games with Comcast"
and take advantage of Qwest's price-for-life guarantee of $26.99
a month for DSL with speeds up to 1.5 megabits per second, in
exchange for signing a two-year contract.
Elsewhere, phone giants Verizon and AT&T have also taken shots
at cable operators in marketing campaigns.
Cable and phone companies are in a heated battle to lure
consumers away from each other by offering a bundle of phone, TV
and Internet services.
Telecommunications and cable companies spent $4.7 billion on
advertising during the first six months of this year, up nearly
17 percent from a year ago, according to a study by New
York-based TNS Media Intelligence.
"Big corporations are constantly battling," said Bob Mazerov,
principal of Denver-based Mazerov Miller Research & Marketing
Strategy. "They're reflecting what the consumers do every day,
which is compare brands."
Some experts are skeptical about the effectiveness of ad
"Unless you really have an argument that's going to put the
stake through the heart of the competitor, it's generally a
lose-lose situation," said Robert Passikoff, president of New
York-based Brand Keys, a research and consulting firm.
"Consumers get really turned off by that kind of thing."
If the ads are done lightly, they can work, said Steve McKee of
McKee Wallwork Cleveland Advertising in Albuquerque. Both Qwest
and Comcast offer service in Albuquerque.
"If people are put off by an overly competitive ad, it's going
to hurt its impact," McKee said. "The Qwest ads are done with a
sense of humor and tongue-in-cheek, and that takes the edge off
of the competitive nature."
Mazerov, however, said basing an ad campaign on price may come
back to hurt Qwest.
"The problem with that strategy is, in the future, if somebody
else offers a lower price, you really don't have any other
dimension on which to set yourself apart," Mazerov said.
"That's a sword that can come back and cut you at a later time."
Taking a jab at a competitor is a shift from Qwest's past
marketing strategies, said Laura Sankey, Qwest vice president of
corporate marketing and advertising.
"We try to be competitive in our offers, but maybe not in our
tone," Sankey said. "So it's a little bit of a departure from
our recent work in specifically calling out our competition."
Denver-based McLain Finlon produced the "Jack My Price Up" ads.
Last week, Qwest launched a new marketing campaign that features
the line "No wonder thousands of fans are choosing Qwest over
cable." Another ad touts the speed of DSL as fast, which is
"contrary to what the cable company would have you believe."
Bill Mosher, vice president of marketing for Comcast in
Colorado, wouldn't say whether future Comcast campaigns will
poke fun at the telecom companies.
"We tend to focus on the value that we bring to customers rather
than taking a slant that would do anything to negatively impact
our competitors," Mosher said.
Comcast is currently running a widespread campaign in Colorado
and other states pitching its $99-a-month bundle of phone, TV
and Internet services.
So far, cable operators are ahead of the phone companies in
terms of winning new customers.
Over the past year, cable companies have added more than 2.6
million phone subscribers, taking their total phone customers to
about 7 million, according to Leichtman Research Group in New
Hampshire. Phone companies, offering their own video products
or partnering with satellite-TV providers, have gained more than
800,000 video subscribers over that time, taking their
video-subscriber base to about 2 million.
Staff writer Andy Vuong can
be reached at 303-954-1209 or