Verizon's 'Can you hear me now?' guy is back...with Sprint
Sprint nabs Verizon's former pitchman in what might be the ultimate troll move.
Roger ChengFormer Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
ExpertiseMobile, 5G, Big Tech, Social MediaCredentials
SABEW Best in Business 2011 Award for Breaking News Coverage, Eddie Award in 2020 for 5G coverage, runner-up National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Award for culture analysis.
"I've watched with fascination as each of the wireless carriers claims to be the most reliable or the fastest," he said in a statement. "But what I've found is...the 'better' that some other national carriers claim about reliability is really only a 1 percent difference."
Using Marcarelli, who helped cement Verizon's reputation for a superior network in ads between 2002 and 2011, marks the latest in Sprint's increasingly aggressive efforts to get you to pay attention. The fourth-biggest carrier in the US, which is pulling itself out of a multiyear rut, has also undercut the competition with discount phone plans and invested in improving its network faster.
In trying to convince consumers that the Sprint network is competitive enough for a second look, CEO Marcelo Claure said he wanted to get someone synonymous with network quality. Marcarelli's long stint as the face of Verizon gives him extra credibility, according to Claure.
"He's an iconic figure," the CEO said.
Sprint is touting Marcarelli as a customer, although Claure said he wasn't before the company approached the actor about the campaign. Claure wanted to make sure Marcarelli was comfortable with the service before touting it.
Verizon, meanwhile, isn't looking to the past.
"They're using our 2002 pitchman because they're finally catching up to our 2002 network," said a Verizon spokesman.
This isn't the first time that Sprint and Verizon have tangled.
Verizon, the nation's largest carrier, has aired a series of ads featuring comedic actor Ricky Gervais that criticize Sprint (without calling it by name) and suggest that Sprint isn't entirely forthcoming about network quality. Given how rare it is for the top player in any industry to go after the last-place competitor, Claure took to Twitter to mix it up with Gervais.