5 Lessons From The Verizon Viral

23 07 2008

There’s a brilliant viral video going around where the Verizon “can you hear me now?” guy and his network sneak up on a guy making a phone call and follow him around, just like in the commercials.

What can we learn from why this works?

  1. TV Is A “Socialization Medium”. TV isn’t a Social Medium in the way we normally think of it. But it IS a fantastic “Socialization Medium”.This stunt couldn’t have worked unless it was able to draw on the crowd’s shared experience. Their reaction wasn’t “what the heck is that?” Their reaction was “OMG, I’ve seen this on TV!”. Verizon was able to socialize this concept through good commercials in people’s living rooms.
  2. Show Beats Tell Every Time. How do you sell something invisible, like a better wireless network? The rational thing to do is to explain it with words. The smart thing to do is communicate it with an outrageous visual. Verizon invested millions and dollars and years of effort into making the Verizon guy and his network a visual icon.Making their product difference visible in an entertaining way made their story stick in people’s heads. It’s easy to forget a tagline. It’s hard to forget a visual story.
  3. Unexpected Is Powerful. Most of the time, most of the human race teeters perilously on the brink of being bored to death. By the time we’re teenagers, we’ve seen it all, read it all, heard it all and done it all a thousand times. This goes double for advertising. We have to make our messages new again, or accept the consequences.
  4. Leave Room For Human Moments. The best part of this video, for me, is when the guy who has been surprised begins playing along by taking half steps and seeing what the network will do. Unscripted moments like that will always be better than anything you could possibly script in advance. Why? Because they are genuine, human, real: three things that advertising generally is not.
  5. Resist The Urge To Hard Sell. The best way to have ruined this would have been to start thinking selfishly. “Shouldn’t we say something about how big our network is?” “Maybe our guy should be carrying a giant Verizon sign.” “Can’t we tag the video with a 5 second pitch about our new widget?”

Does anybody know if this was an official Verizon effort? Who the production company or agency was? Where or how the idea started? I’m really curious. It’s rare to see something done so well.

P.S. Disclosure: I’m a Verizon Wireless customer in NYC. I actually think they’re really good, which makes me like this video all the more.