by Hilary Brueck, fortune.com
Sprint’s latest attempt to attack competitor T-Mobile isn’t sitting well with consumers.
The company pulled back one of its newest ads late Tuesday after it came under fire for being racist and insensitive.
The ad in question features Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure asking customers about their perceptions of the big mobile carriers.
“I’m going to tell you a carrier name and I want you to basically tell me what comes to your mind,” the Sprint boss begins. “T-Mobile. When I say T-Mobile to you, just a couple of words?”
A white woman at the table chimes in: “Oh my god the first word that came to my head was (grimacing)…ghetto!”
Claure tweeted afterward that the customer’s remark was “maybe not the best choice of words,” but added that the new ads are meant to show “real comments from real customers.”
Honest answers from real people on my #ListeningTour across the country. Sometimes the truth hurts, @TMobile https://t.co/4WHoDLNsbj
— MarceloClaure (@marceloclaure) April 12, 2016
What Claure didn’t mention? The real numbers. Last year T-Mobile (TMUS 0.03%) edged out Sprint (S -0.70%) to become the nation’s third-largest carrier behind Verizon (VZ 0.73%) and AT&T (T 0.38%).
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Now the former longtime third-place carrier is struggling to stay afloat. Earlier this month, Sprint offered up a sale and leaseback for some $3 billion of cellular networking equipment in an effort to generate some immediate cash flow for the company.
But consumers were not pleased with Sprint’s latest tactic to win the battle for third place. Twitter users voiced their anger with the new ad, some even saying it prompted them to cancel their Sprint service:
@marceloclaure @TMobile @sprint lost another customer.. last time I checked, you guys need all the customers you can get GHETTO or otherwise
— Hasani Hunter (@hasanihunter) April 13, 2016
How could @sprint not realize that calling @TMobile customers ‘ghetto’ had racist and classist implications.
— Melvin Johnson (@melvinjdesign) April 13, 2016
So Tuesday evening, Claure announced he was retracting the new ad:
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
This isn’t the first time the Sprint boss has waged his carrier battle with T-Mobile on Twitter. Last year, Claure and T-Mobile CEO John Legere duked it out on Twitter, with Legere imploring the masses to #sprintlikehell while Claure called Legere’s tactics at T-Mobile cheap and misleading.