The four main cell phone companies in the United States, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T, have long competed against each other for customers. Verizon is the company who first featured “colorful balls” in their ads to show how they tested against their competitors. Since then, Sprint has release commercial and T-Mobile has done three commercials rebutting Verizon’s original one. In 2013, T-Mobile launched their “UNcarrier” marketing movement, which changed the face of mobile phone plans.
The latest T-Mobile ad, titled “Ballogize” and starring Steve Harvey, is a continuation of this movement. Steve Harvey’s presence in this commercial shows that he is capable of poking fun at himself for his recent Miss Universe mistake. TMobile’s commercial appeals to viewers particularly through their updated marketing campaign, through the use of humor from Steve Harvey, and being considered highly moral and ethical for pointing out Verizon’s advertising mistake. T-Mobile is quickly becoming recognizable for their revamped marketing of rebranding themselves as the UN-carrier.
The company recognized their issue of being behind Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint and decided make some changes regarding the plans they offered in order to gain customers. The changes include plans that eliminate “contracts, subsidized phones, overage fees for data, and early termination fees” (Chen, 2013). T-Mobile began marketing themselves completely different from their competitors, which explains the “un” in UN-carrier. This movement forced the other big carriers to play catch-up with TMobile. Since then, all three have worked to get back on top.
It makes sense for Verizon to have mislead consumers in their original commercial. The company was determined to get whatever customers they can because they felt threatened by TMobile’s new programs – and they had every right to. In the 2015 fourth quarter, T-Mobile reportedly added 1. 3 million new customers which was just under Verizon’s reported 1. 5 million (Meola, 2016). T-Mobile’s “UN-carrier” movement has been nothing but successful for the company and their business. The company’s “Ballogize” commercial aired during the 2016 Super Bowl, where advertisements are usually at their prime.
Commercials are typically seen as an annoyance, and are muted and simply ignored. Super Bowl ads are the one exception. These are not only encouraged but are sometimes seen as the main attraction. It has been reported that half of Super Bowl viewers are there only for the highly anticipated commercials (Siltanen, 2014). Like any other form of advertisements, companies view Super Bowl ads as investments and want to get as much as they can from their airtime, but it is a gamble. According to Leslie Moonves, for a 30-second commercial spot during the 2016 Super Bowl, it would cost around $5 million (Groden, 2015).
If an ad is effective, then the publicity gained for the company and product is worth far more than the cost of the spot. But if it causes backlash, then all the money put into the ad was wasted and it could also result in the loss of current customers. A similarity that can be drawn from T-Mobile’s commercial is that Steve Harvey’s mistake happened at the Miss Universe pageant, a worldwide television event, and now a commercial featuring him is aired during the Super Bowl, another popular televised event.
Harvey was put in front of many viewers again, where a majority would already understand his references and in turn, understand the humor in the commercial. In the ad, the presence of colorful balls and the comedian Steve Harvey each allude to a different recognizable situation. The numerous colorful balls on a gray racetrack was the work of Verizon who used them to prove to customers that their company is superior to the other three. At the very beginning of this commercial, a snippet from the original is played.
The clip is just brief enough to establish a connection for the audience to have while watching the rest of it. The snippet is interrupted when Steve Harvey enters. When Harvey talks, it becomes obvious that his lines were created to relate back to his unforgettable error at the 2015 Miss Universe pageant where he announced the wrong contender as the winner. Certain phrasings, along with gestures and props, were included to solidify this implication. Harvey interrupted the Verizon part of the commercial to fix Verizon’s mistake similarly how he interrupted the pageant celebration to fix his mistake.
This TMobile commercial will only make sense to those that have previously seen the original Verizon ad and are aware of Steve Harvey’s past mistake. These allusions, however, are what make the commercial enjoyable for their audience and also extremely successful. The usage of vibrant colors in this commercial allow for the message of company rankings to be pushed to the consumers. Each group of balls have a specific color that relate back to their designated company. The red balls match with Verizon; the blue ones represent AT&T; the yellow ones mean Sprint; the pink ones stand for T-Mobile.
Those four colors were chosen because the audience can easily associate them back to the four different companies. When Steve Harvey mentions how T-Mobile increased their coverage, bright pink balls begin to flow in massive numbers to signify how much their company has grown. The balls continue until they are falling off the edges of the track onto the floor, even covering Steve Harvey’s shoes. Any yellow, blue, or red balls that were on the track beforehand have now been covered by the numerous pink balls. This can translate to mean that T-Mobile has swallowed up all the other competition.
It could also be seen as a foreshadow of T-Mobile becoming so popular that it results in Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint becoming obsolete and forgotten. Similarly, the use of dull colors forces the audience to focus on the bright colors of the ad. The background and floor are plain white. If they were to have a pattern or have writing, the audience would be drawn away from the main focus – the balls. The track the balls roll down is a simple gray color. It has the same effect; the audience tends to not pay attention to it so much to where they are drawn away from the bright balls.
Even Steve Harvey’s suit is anything but eye catching. The background colors are kept simple because the audience’s focus is clearly meant to be on the bright, colorful balls since they are what stands out the most in the ad. And the abundance of pink balls at the end makes sure the audience keeps T-Mobile in their mind after the commercial ends. It is the last frame of the ad, therefore, it will be the last thing the audience remembers. Like many modern day commercials, hashtags are featured at the ending when the brand name and information is displayed. For this ad, the hashtag happened to be the title of the ad, “Ballogize”.
The typical goal of marketing is to get a great deal of publicity and by using hashtags for social media, the chatter is considerably more. Hashtags help to keep the conversation about the topic going, which in turn, results in the topic getting more publicity than just the commercial by itself. Because T-Mobile’s commercial aired during the Super Bowl, there was already a large amount of people exposed to the hashtag at the ending. By using the hashtag on social media platforms, people are able to leave their commentary as well as spark the curiosity of somebody who has not seen the ad.
They can then figure out the origin of the hashtag and view the commercial. Business people have learned to use social media to their advantage, and having a hashtag that relates back to a company’s topic is just one example. The goal of this ad, for T-Mobile to gain customers, works because they appeal to the audience in various ways. This commercial tells that Verizon used outdated information when they put out their original commercial. TMobile is revealing that Verizon lied to consumers for the purpose of benefiting their business.
This is corrected when Steve Harvey reads off one major statistic, “T-Mobile doubled their LTE coverage within the last year. ” People want their cell phone carrier to reach wherever they go so this seems like a logical reason for the audience to trust them. T-Mobile has been around for over 20 years and is one of the four major carriers in the Unites States which leads customers to come to the conclusion that they are credible and reliable. Another way TMobile appealed to audiences is through the inclusion of Steve Harvey. People began to sympathize with Harvey after his error and understand it was an honest mistake.
With this commercial, it showed people that he can poke fun at himself and T-Mobile gave him that opportunity. The audience can view that as honorable of them and wish to reward T-Mobile with their service. To continue, this commercial features Aristotle’s appeals as a mode of persuasion of the audience. Within the short thirty second ad, audiences are played with in order to get them to give T-Mobile their business. An appeal to logos is present when Harvey reads off the specific statistic from his card. Audiences connect that statistic with the sudden appearance of an overabundance of pink balls.
However, people might also view the numerous pink balls as an exaggeration of the data. The main appeal in the commercial is to ethos. T-Mobile is considered credible because the company has been around for numerous years. Another example is that, because of this commercial, they are seen as likeable due to them working to spread the word that Verizon lied in their ad. Viewers possibly now see them as morally better than their competitor, and for some, that makes all the difference when deciding what company to give their business to. Pathos is another big appeal that works to grab viewers attention.
Steve Harvey uses this outlet to turn his scandalous mistake into an entertaining joke. Not only that, but also the series of the commercials featuring the “colorful balls” is humorous as well. Audiences love the ongoing “war” of commercials back and forth between the companies. They are entertaining to an audience to where they will go search online for the series. These three appeals work together carefully to get the intended outcome of persuading viewers to give their business to T-Mobile. The bright and pale colors on this commercial were deliberately chosen in a way here the audience could make connections without being explicitly told what to connect.
It also allowed T-Mobile to push their message of being the superior cell phone carrier. Their rebranding made this commercial possible because they were ahead of the game and knew how to connect to a large audience. Steve Harvey was brought in as an appeal to the viewers. His role in the ad was not only for entertainment purposes, but also to correct the error Verizon originally advertised. The continuation of the commercials featuring colorful balls, along with Steve Harvey, make this ad memorable and successful with audiences.