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Deutsche Telekom AG's (NYSE: DT ) T-Mobile unit is launching a fresh marketing campaign with longtime figurehead Catherine Zeta-Jones front and center. The premiere happened in last night's finale of American Idol, which is still the leading eyeball magnet on the weekly TV schedule. Short of the Super Bowl, you won't find a bigger spot for TV marketing.
From this high-volume (and highly expensive) advertising platform, T-Mobile is launching the message that it gives you a better deal than Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint (NYSE: S ) . Borrowing a page from Progressive's (NYSE: PGR ) 'Quote and Compare' service, the ads will point viewers toward independent service recommendation website BillShrink.com, where you can verify Ms. Jones' money-saving claims for yourself.
T-Mobile needs a decent tagline, and being a value provider when the economy is tight sounds like a very viable strategy. Verizon calls itself the biggest and most reliable network, and AT&T boasts it has the fastest 3G network and exclusive access to Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhone. Sprint has the much-hyped Palm (Nasdaq: PALM ) Pre handset to put its marketing muscle behind, while T-Mobile has ... the only Android phone on the market. Nobody I know will change networks just to get that unproven piece of hardware. But with a money-saving message behind it, maybe they will.
With that in mind, T-Mobile has now emerged with its new promo: "The coverage you need, at the price you want." The company is set to trumpet the message that it's a cheap date that will save you money. The BillShrink site backed those claims up in a quick test based on my Floridian zip code and modest calling habits. An imaginary Anders with heavy texting and mobile Web browsing habits, on the other hand, got a Sprint service as his first recommendation, with T-Mobile right behind. So the deck doesn't seem unfairly stacked in the German provider's favor, which is good for the credibility of this campaign.
It's looking like T-Mobile could leverage a solid brand message into a stronger market position while putting pressure on the other majors to close this value gap -- or the perception thereof. The wireless market just heated up in front of my eyes. Where's my popcorn and soda? This is going to be interesting.