In 2015 the cell phone company, Verizon, released a series of ads promoting their network coverage. In these ads balls came out of a dispenser in different colors representing the different cell phone carriers. Red represented Verizon, Blue represented At and T, yellow represented Sprint, and pink represented T Mobile. These color coordinating balls would then go into similar colored slots where they would stop moving. The point of these ads was to visually represent the lack of coverage made by the other companies and show how Verizon’s network is superior.
In response to these ads T Mobile enlisted the support of Steve Harvey. During the 2015 Ms. Universe pageant Steve Harvey, on live national television, mistakenly announced the first runner up with the actual winner of the pageant, naming Ms. Colombia as the winner instead of Ms. Philippines. After realizing his mistake Harvey comes back out and says, “I have to apologize.” He the proceeds to show the card revealing the actual winner of the pageant and says “it is right here on the card folks.” This mistake went viral and spread all over the internet very quickly.
T Mobile used Harvey’s mistake to convey a similar message to the viewers of the Super Bowl in response to the series of ads run by Verizon. T Mobile’s ad begins by appearing to be another Verizon commercial; the different colored balls come shooting out of the dispenser and the same woman is talking in the background about the types of coverage each cell phone company provides. Shortly after this Harvey steps out from off stage. Just like the Ms. Universe peasant he says that a mistake has been made and directs the audience to look at he card. he then says that Verizon used “last years’s numbers” and that T Mobile covers almost just as many as Verizon does because they now have more LTE towers than Verizon. While this is taking place a bunch of pink balls, representing T-Mobile, come rushing out of the ball dispenser overflowing the space to show that Verizon’s ad is pointless and incorrect. Harvey then closes the ad and says Version screwed up and “not me this time.” T Mobile then closes the ad with the hashtag #BALLOGIZE meaning that Verizon should apologize for the misinformation demonstrated with balls.
For this ad T Mobile used a very powerful symbol relevant to popular culture, Steve Harvey and his Ms. Universe mixup. This moment in popular culture will be remembered by those who are alive doing this time. Many references have been made to it in not only in this commercial but in other forms of media as well. For example, In Kanye Wests’s song Facts West references the mixup with the line, “Does anybody feel bad for Bill Crosby? Did he forget the names like Steve Harvey?” West’s prominence as one of the most well known rapers of the current era and the volume of people that listen to his music solidify the impact that Steve Harvey’s mixup had on popular culture. Moreover, because Steve Harvey is able to laugh at himself and make fun of the fact that he made a mistake on national television gives the ad more humor, however, the genius lies within the inter textual reference made by T Mobile. By enlisting Harvey’s support T Mobile was able to point out Verizon’s mistake in their dropping ball ads with humor that was not malicious or irritating to the audience. T Mobile uses humor instead of just plainly saying, “Verizon’s numbers are wrong and T Mobile covers just a as many people as they do.” This allows the audience to be entertained and the message the Verizon twisted the facts comes across and is retained by the audience.
According to firecewireless.com “T-Mobile spent nearly $14.8 million to air two spots during the game, generating 6.8 million Facebook views, more than 8 million overall online views and 131 million TV impressions. No other carrier was among the top 60 advertisers.” The ad was very unbiased and did not target to any specific group of people based on race, gender, social class, income. The ad, however, primarily targeted Version users and secondarily Sprint, At and T customers, and anyone in the cellphone market as well. 57% of all T Mobile customers are minorities compared to that of their biggest competition with only 32%. In addition, in 2015 T Mobile spent between $4.4 billion to $4.7 billion on capital expenses, primarily upgrading their LTE coverage.