Why did The “Can You Hear Me Guy” switch from Verizon to Sprint

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You will most likely remember this phrase if you turn on the TV during the early 2000s. “Can you hear me now?”Verizon, a cell phone service provider, began running commercials in 2002 that focused on the high quality of their service. The memorable catchphrase, always spoken by the same bespectacled man, stuck in people’s brains. 

Sprint to Verizon Switch

Within two years, Verizon’s customer base grew by ten percent, and Paul Marcarelli, the actor in the commercials, was one of the most recognizable faces on television. Marcarelli was a Verizon employee for nine years and used the same catchphrase every time. He and Verizon were linked together in people’s minds — which is why it was so shocking when he showed up in a Sprint commercial in 2016. 

Marcarelli’s contract with Verizon ended in 2011. He decided to quit appearing in commercials and turn his talents to independent film production and screenwriting. “I was retired from commercials,”He said this while speaking on the Surviving Hollywood podcast. “I was like ‘That’s a great run, don’t get greedy.’”

“And then [Sprint] came to my agent with an idea,”Marcarelli stated. They finetuned the campaign idea, working around the fact that Verizon owned Marcarelli’s character and catchphrase. “I didn’t have any interest in reprising that character anyway,”He laughed. 

Sprint’s Ad Campaign

Marcarelli thought of the idea to always say his own name at the start of commercials in order to ensure that viewers understood that he was speaking for himself and not for Verizon. 

“I thought there was something a little punk rock about it,” Marcarelli said, and he quickly accepted Sprint’s offer. The TV advertisement, called “Paul Switched,”People were shocked to see such an iconic spokesperson change allegiances and it went viral immediately

The first Sprint commercial was seen over 14,000,000 times. At the time, the CEO stated that Sprint had beat both AT&T and Verizon that quarter with the number of customers they added.

This is even more impressive because almost all new customers must be poached in a highly saturated category such as cell service. Sprint’s campaign persuaded many to switch over to their company – the main goal of a successful ad campaign. Marcarelli continues to do commercials for Sprint (or now T-Mobile) after a corporate merge.