The Spot: FiOS in the Fast Lane

Verizon escapes a dystopian traffic jam in McCann's latest work

GENESIS: According to Verizon, the average home has 4.5 Internet gadgets—laptops, desktops, TVs, tablets, smartphones, and so on—a number that could approach double digits by 2014. The network that carries that load, then, becomes crucial. Verizon believes its FiOS fiber-optic grid is a breed apart, superior in speed and capacity to all others. But how do you dramatize that? "How do you make a big pipe interesting and meaningful, beyond just saying, 'We have a big pipe?'" asked Deirdre Robinson, Verizon's branding chief. The answer: a visual metaphor showing giant gadgets traveling on an actual roadway—with vehicles clogged in the rival networks' lane and a lightning-fast FiOS computer whizzing by.

ART DIRECTION: More than a dozen gadget-vehicles were built from scratch in the set shop; the rest were added digitally in post-production. Filmed at night, the spot was made to look gloomy and futuristic—with almost a Blade Runner vibe. "We tried to capture frustration in a cinematic and beautiful way," says director Filip Engstrom. "It has a bit of film noir, with the low backlights casting long shadows, and that contributes to the dark, mysterious look." The mood brightens when the FiOS bus enters in a flash of light. "It's a classic reference: dark versus light," says McCann executive creative director George Dewey. "Fiber optics works on light, so it was a natural metaphor. Everything else is really the dark ages."

COPYWRITING: A male voiceover says: "Can the network you live on handle the computers, TVs and technology you can't live without? Verizon FiOS can. Get the power and speed of America's largest 100 percent fiber-optic network." The tagline is delivered on screen and spoken: "Verizon FiOS. A network ahead." Dewey says the writers pared the copy back. "There's something beautiful and graphic about the film, and we didn't want to add wall-to-wall copy," he says. The tagline isn't wholly new, "but we think this is the best expression of the line," he adds.

FILMING: The ad was shot on three straight nights, including Super Bowl Sunday, in downtown L.A., and required closing two streets. The scale was daunting. "It's always scary when you do something like this, because it can turn out really, really cool or be completely ludicrous," says Dewey. "We believe it turned out cool."

EFFECTS: Absolute Post cleaned up the roads, signs, shadows, and reflections, added lights to buildings, and augmented smoke and other effects. The team also enhanced a lens flare in the final shot, which had been caught partially in-camera. "It gave it more—I wouldn't say Close Encounters—but more of an ethereal feel," says lead flame artist Dirk Greene. To add phantom drivers to their CG vehicles, the team scrutinized what was right in front of them. "We would pick up our keyboards and try to think of where people would sit in them," says Greene.

TALENT: Actors were chosen to reflect a cross-section of America. The long night shifts helped them look suitably tired and bored in the traffic jam. Robinson adds: "A lot of them live in L.A., so I think they could relate."

SOUND: The spot begins with a quiet piano, as honking horns, police whistles and other traffic noises reinforce the visual gridlock. Then, a gathering crescendo of cymbals heralds the arrival of the FiOS machine. "That's the big reveal, the big hero," says Dewey. "It's a lot in terms of sound, but we think we struck the right balance."