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The war between telecommunications companies can get surprisingly feisty, but Sprint managed to cross a line in its attempt to take a crack at its competitors when it produced a video with a woman referring to T-Mobile as “ghetto.”
The advertisement features Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure at a table with a group of people who purportedly aren’t actors. He tells the group that he’s going to name off mobile carriers and they are to respond with a word that comes to mind.
It’s a pretty simple game of word association that gets too real, too quick when the woman asked about T-Mobile responds by saying, “The first one that came to my head is ‘ghetto.'” She admits that the thought is terrible immediately after, but it didn’t stop her from saying it—nor did it stop a room of mostly white people and a man worth nearly $1 billion from laughing.
The woman goes on to explain that, as far as she’s concerned, there’s only three carriers: AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. “And people who have T-Mobile, it’s just like, ‘Why do you have T-Mobile?'” Then the Sprint logo appears, as if to grace the whole interaction with the company’s stamp of approval.
Not surprisingly, Sprint has pulled the advertisement—though it’s been preserved online—and Claure apologized via Twitter. “My job is to listen to consumers. Our point was to share customer views. Bad judgment on our part. Apologies. Taking the video down,” he wrote.
My job is to listen to consumers. Our point was to share customer views. Bad judgment on our part. Apologies. Taking the video down.
— MarceloClaure (@marceloclaure) April 13, 2016
Prior to the takedown and apology, Claure shared the YouTube video of the ad on Twitter with the message, “Sometimes the truth hurts, @TMobile.”
When asked for a comment on the situation, T-Mobile pointed to a tweet from its generally very outspoken CEO John Legere, who responded in a fairly subdued manner, stating, “I don’t think I need to respond…”
Aside from the suggestion that T-Mobile is “ghetto,” the woman’s statement was factually wrong. As of the fourth quarter of 2015, T-Mobile had surpassed Sprint in subscribers to become the third-biggest carrier in the United States. According to Open Signal, Sprint also ranks last among the major American carriers when it comes to 4G coverage.
Meanwhile, T-Mobile snagged Consumer Reports’ endorsement for best mobile carrier; Sprint finished fourth out of four in the same rankings.
AJ Dellinger is a seasoned technology writer whose work has appeared in Digital Trends, International Business Times, and Newsweek. In 2018, he joined Gizmodo as the nights and weekend editor.