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Verizon's 'can you hear me now?' guy has defected to Sprint

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The Verizon guy is now the Sprint guy. Sprint's newest ads feature Paul Marcarelli, best known as the man in the Verizon ads who traveled across the US with his phone held out in front of him, testing the network's signal and asking "can you hear me now?" Marcarelli addresses his defection in his first Sprint appearance, titled "Paul Switched," arguing that the years he spent wandering the country to drive home Verizon's expansive cell coverage don't mean much any more — "it's 2016 now," he says to camera, "and every network is great."

To back up his point, Marcarelli says Sprint is within one percent of Verizon's network reliability, but its rates are much cheaper — coming in at half the cost of those offered by Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. The ad closes with an eyebrow raise and a reference to his past position as the face of the brand, Marcarelli asking "can you hear that?" Another ad follows Paul as he completes his transition to Sprint, activating his new phone with one of Sprint's traveling salespeople, and marveling at how quickly he was able to switch data to his Sprint device.

The "every network is great" angle is a marked departure from the kind of fiery rhetoric deployed by competitors like T-Mobile, whose outspoken CEO John Legere regularly calls out his rivals for their perceived failures, and from Sprint's recent attack ads — including one particularly tasteless example that called T-Mobile "ghetto," and was pulled shortly after its release.

Marcarelli's trading on his value as the very visible public face of Verizon for so many years, but the actor has suggested in the past that he might not exactly be the right man to be giving cellphone advice. "People also had a tendency to engage me in long conversations about their phone bills or the merits of some soon-to-be-released cellular technology that I usually knew nothing about," he said about his experience as the personification of a brand in an interview with Time last year.