Congratulations, Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S). You win.

Your full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal this week may have been a desperate cry for attention -- but it worked. You got my attention. Honestly, what Fool could resist writing about "The First $10.5M Cell Phone"?

P.T. Barnum's ghost
Probably apocryphal, entertainer extraordinaire P.T. Barnum gets credit for coining the phrase: "There's a sucker born every minute." And while I can't confirm the timing, I serve as living proof that Barnum was right on the sentiment. When Sprint ran its ad yesterday, advertising "an exciting limited-time offer for billionaires" -- $199.99 for a BlackBerry (after mail-in rebate and exclusive of fine print), plus $10,499,800.01 for an "exotic island" with optional thatched cabana, helipad, Olympic-size swimming pool, and putting green -- I felt a distinct tug on my leg. But that didn't mean I could resist clicking through to the www.sprint.com/islandoffer website.

The punch line
You see, a joke's just not a joke without the punch line. Sprint knew that, and this is why it hid the punch line to its gag scattered around its specially designed website. Summarizing:

  • Supplies are limited. (Presumably, supplies of exotic islands only. I'm sure Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) wouldn't mind churning out as many BlackBerrys as the market can handle.)
  • Purchasers must possess a "six-digit BIN [Billionaire Identification Number]."
  • And last but not least, under the double-asterisked "**Island Offer Disclosure," we learn that: "If you are in fact a billionaire and you're still interested in purchasing an island, our broker would be happy to help you find one. Please send an e-mail to info@privateislandoffer.com. Note that no island purchase will be made through Sprint. Please, only write to the e-mail address above if you are serious about buying and have the appropriate assets needed for purchase."

One-hit wonder
Sprint advertises "the fastest off button on the market" as a key feature of the BlackBerry 8830 "World Edition." But that's not the only one-hit wonder here, I fear. It's going to be awfully hard for Sprint to top this over-the-top ad, and transform it into a franchise the likes of, say, Energizer's bunny, Capital One's "what's in your wallet" series, or MasterCard's "priceless" marketing campaign. Extravagance-wise, there's really nowhere to go after advertising an island for sale to billionaires. Pairing a phone with a yacht would be a step backward. And as for forwards, there aren't a lot of continents left for sale.

Still, as one-hit wonders go, this was a good 'un, Sprint. You've succeeded in stealing an advertising march on AT&T (NYSE:T) and its vaunted Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone franchise. Kudos. I doff my Fool cap to you.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. And because for the life of him, he can't remember his BIN, Sprint's site won't let him buy the island. MasterCard is a former Motley Fool Inside Value selection. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is no joke.