Ina Fried

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Sprint’s Virgin Mobile Brand Taking on T-Mobile, AT&T in New Ads

Sprint is looking to take advantage of T-Mobile’s pending merger with AT&T as a way to win some customers for its Virgin Mobile prepaid brand.

In a new series of ads, Sprint lampoons T-Mobile’s pink-dress-clad spokeswoman as “contractually obligated” to hang out with the stodgy AT&T guy. The ads also aim to position Virgin Mobile’s talk and data plans as the best in the business.

“It’s a competitive market and we’re not going to shy away from an opportunity to debate things publicly so that consumers can see both sides of a story,” said Virgin Mobile marketing VP Bob Stohrer.

Technically, the campaign is a parody of a parody, since T-Mobile’s ads themselves were a take-off of Apple’s “I’m a Mac” spots. Sprint is not the first to try that technique, with merger opponent Free Press also using a parody of the ads to make its case.

The ads don’t make mention of Virgin Mobile’s recent announcement that it will soon start throttling the data speeds of customers who go over a certain threshold — a method of limiting data popularized by T-Mobile.

Update: In a statement, T-Mobile communications director Hernan Daguerre said that the ads prove that T-mobile’s no-contract plans are putting pressure on Virgin.

“And this is because consumers looking for a great prepaid rate plan also want cutting-edge devices on a nationwide 4G network, which is exactly what they get from T-Mobile,” Daguerre said. “It’s flattering to see their marketing efforts center around our advertising properties, but consumers will see right through their gimmicks.”

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus