Competition in the cell phone provider market can be good for customers: as long as the four main U.S. companies that offer cell service continue to undercut each other with more affordable plans and devices, better coverage, expanded networks, and shorter contracts, consumers win. Sprint is frequently trying to poach customers from its rivals using promotions like paying off termination fees or guaranteeing lower monthly bills, but it's not enough: as of 2015, they're in fourth place, which makes the racially charged new ad they had to pull all the more off-putting.
In the ad, above, CEO Marcelo Claure sits at a table with both Sprint users and customers who use his competitors: AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile. The group is ethnically diverse, comprised of men and women. Claure turns to a white female Sprint customer and asks her to say the first word that comes to mind when she thinks of T-Mobile. From the Washington Post:
“Oh, my God, the first word that came to my mind was,” before pausing, “ghetto!”
“That sounds, like, terrible,” she follows up. “I don’t know. … People who have T-Mobile are just, like,” she takes a long pause, as if carefully planning her next words. “Why do you have T-Mobile?”
Claure smiles and nods while looking around the table. At least three of the other white people at the table laugh (one while attempting to conceal her laughter with her hands). It's difficult to make out the reactions of an Asian woman and a black woman, who may be laughing, but a white man raises his eyebrows at the remark and a black man puts his head down.
The CEO stepped in it further by airing the ad and sharing it himself on Twitter (and @-ing T-Mobile so his followers would see), saying the woman's comments were "maybe not the best choice of words…not meant to offend anyone."
Claure was hit with a barrage of tweets from users calling the ad "classless," racist, and tone-deaf, with many wondering why it was still online.
Eight and a half hours after his initial tweet, Claure that the ad had been pulled, chalking it up to "bad judgement."
But you know, still:
However, Claure seems to have taken the whole imbroglio in stride.
[h/t Fast Company]
David Matthews operates the Wayback Machine on Fusion.net—hop on. Got a tip? Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org