Verizon CCO: company is shedding spokes-celebs and embracing real stories with Oscars campaign

Thomas Middleditch and Gaten Matarazzo have been longtime spokes-celebrities for Verizon, but as the telecom introduces its latest campaign featuring real customers, it is parting ways with the two actors.

In its upcoming set of ads debuting during the Oscars, Verizon is now highlighting the stories of real customers and real stories. Several different vignettes will focus on how different customers, from diverse backgrounds, rely on the network for the important moments in their lives.

People featured are a truck driver who is always traveling for weeks at a time, relying on the network to keep in touch with his kids; a customer who had a major accident in the middle of the woods and was able to get a connection to call for help; and a wife whose husband was in the military on deployment, yet she was able to call him and live stream their son’s birth so he wouldn’t miss it.

Andrew McKechnie, Verizon’s chief creative officer, said these types of stories will be the kind Verizon’s creative focuses on moving forward. It’s a concept the company started during last year’s Super Bowl and continued with several campaigns while still using the two celebrities.

“Verizon has made a significant shift in marketing efforts, focusing on narratives,” McKechnie told The Drum. He cited previous efforts, including the brand’s ‘Humanability,’ highlighting the innovations and impacts its engineers have brought to society, and more recently its ‘Team That Wouldn’t Be Here’ campaign that showed how first responders used Verizon to help save the lives of NFL players and coaches, part of its ongoing work with first responders.

“That was a very focused campaign about connecting with two big communities of ours and bringing their stories to life. We leaned into that,” he said.

For the latest campaign, Verizon was able to tap into its base of 130 million customers and why they chose Verizon rather than letting a spokesperson do the talking. “The best spokespeople are [those who] live and breathe our technology every day, along with the thousands of engineers we have,” said McKechnie.

“What we try to do as a brand is step away from the manufactured artifice of advertising. We’re still selling. That doesn’t change. But the intention in the way we behave as a brand has evolved. It’s more authentic,” he said, adding he doesn’t want his in-house agency, called 140, or the company’s partner agencies (in this case, McCann and the Community), working on scripts that aren’t always believable, but rather pull from the stories the Verizon team hears every day.

“Consumers are very savvy about the way brands show up and market to people. We want to shine a light on stories big and small…how the network shows up in people’s lives…that’s what’s important to me.”

Verizon asked its agencies to change their approaches to casting, looking for great stories that express what is important to those customers. “We’re allowing them to tell their story in a way it should be told, not constructing a narrative we think should be told. We hear these stories every day, from our engineers on the front lines to our…customer care associates.

"There’s a steady pipeline of these stories coming through…It’s much more of a documentary approach. The fortunate thing is we have 130 million-customer pool of talent to tap into. It is a different approach, and you see the authenticity,” said McKechnie.

While McCann led the campaign creation, the Community helped with the Hispanic market. During the Oscars, Verizon will run two Spanish-speaking spots without subtitles, which, according to Verizon, is a first for the Academy Awards. “We think that’s the right way to reflect the diversity of the audience that’s watching,” he said.

“A campaign that leans into these real stories is the right moment for this brand. It’s going to touch everyone across America [during the Oscars]. We’re tapping into a community that likes storytelling.”

McKechnie said that internally, Verizon is excited about how it is marketing moving forward, moving away from the “pricing and promo world” that is the norm in telecom and “taking a leadership position.”

See the spots by clicking on the Creative Works box below.

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