The best and worst wireless ads of 2012

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Phil GoldsteinAccording to Kantar Media, a research firm that tracks advertising spending, total spending on advertising for telecom services came close to $8.65 billion in 2011. AT&T (NYSE:T) alone spent $1.92 billion alone on advertising last year, the second most in the United States after Proctor & Gamble ($2.95 billion). Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) was no slouch either, spending around $1.64 billion on advertising in 2011. Obviously, spending specifically for wireless is a subset of the overall telecom numbers, but the message should be clear: spending on wireless advertisements is enormous and dwarfs other industries like food, restaurants and insurance.

Advertising is the most visual and striking way for carriers and handset makers to let consumers know about their new plans, devices and overall strategy. Advertising has evolved over the past several years to encompass social networking in addition to online advertising and traditional ads in radio, TV, print and outside the home. However, it is TV ads (and the way they can live on forever now on YouTube) that are usually the most memorable.

Yet not all ads are created equal. Some are eye-catching and hit the mark. Others leave viewers scratching their heads wondering what exactly the ad was trying to convey and what product the company behind it was trying to sell. The best ads convey a simple but powerful message that a carrier or OEM is trying to get across, while the less effective ads fail to explain the value the product or service being advertised--or worse, cause embarrassment for a company.

The following is an admittedly highly subjective shortlist of the best and worst ads released by wireless companies in 2012. We have rated each based on aesthetics and effectiveness and assigned an overall grade. To be clear, we aren't critiquing, reviewing or otherwise passing judgment on the products or services highlighted in the ads, just on the commercials themselves. As always, comments and criticisms are encouraged. Did we flub a review or miss out on an ad you love or hate?  Please let us know what you think the comments. Enjoy! 

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