2010
04.14

I admit it; I’m still a big fan of Tiger Woods, strictly for golfing reasons, of course. After not competing professionally for close to seven months, the guy still manages to turn in a top-four performance at Augusta this past weekend (The Masters). Still, as impressed as I was with his performance I wasn’t itching to go out and buy a Nike driver or seek out the business advice of Accenture (two of Mr. Woods’ former sponsors) after I turned off my television. It’s the same reason I haven’t stopped drinking Gatorade (another former endorsement deal) since it came out that Mr. Woods has not been faithful to his wife.

So what’s my point here? I don’t make purchasing decisions based on the extramarital affairs of famous athletes. In fact, I’ve yet to meet anyone that has been so persuaded by celebrity endorsement that it dictated whether or not they bought a certain product. Still, big companies remain convinced that celebrity endorsement seals the deal for the average consumer, and as a result continue marching out the likes of Lance Armstrong for convincing me to eat better or Jessica Alba for getting my wife to buy makeup.

So given the fact big companies believe celebrities get us to buy products I always found it curious that AT&T would use Luke Wilson as its celebrity answer to all of those Verizon commercials that compare 3G maps from the two carriers. While Verizon is making claims against AT&T’s coverage they are giving us the third lead in Old School. (Come on, even T-Mobile  gives us Catherine Zeta-Jones!)

When it comes down to it, the best information comes from real people. When I’m in the market for anything from a new phone to a new car I’m not listening to celebrities, I’m reading Consumer Reports, scouring the Internet for user reviews, and asking friends for recommendations.

But that hasn’t necessarily worked for AT&T lately either, given all the negative publicity from iPhone users unhappy with their service. But while this seems like I’m giving AT&T a lot of grief, I want to point out that I think the carrier has gotten it right with its plan for the iPad.

AT&T will have two monthly data plans—one for $14.99 for 250 MB, and another for $29.99 for unlimited data. So rather than locking users into a contract, it’s instead giving them flexibility. AT&T could be betting on the fact users leverage Wi-Fi more than the 3G with this device, thus putting less pressure on the network. In many ways this—coupled with the next generation iPhone coming to market—is a big test for AT&T and its network. It could influence whether or not these devices are opened up to other carriers. It will be exciting to watch.

While we are on the subject, ABI Research came out with some interesting commentary about data networks. It says Verizon Wireless carries the most, and Sprint the second most—with customers of the two operators generating 63% of the mobile network data traffic in the United States.

Interesting note about that: While ABI says while AT&T had the most activated data devices in 2009, it’s actually the laptop mobile data connections that have the greatest impact on operator data traffic levels. And that is where Verizon and Sprint topped AT&T.

Given all of this, I’m looking forward to the carrier roundtable discussion at this year’s Connected World Conference. I think this will all make for fun and riveting conversation with AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile all on hand to answer critical questions about their services. Maybe Luke Wilson will show up and I could ask him what it was like to work with Vince Vaughn in Wedding Crashers—oh wait, that’s Owen Wilson … nevermind.

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