Verizon Spotlights 5G-Powered Cancer Treatment in NBA Finals Ad

The carrier seeks to humanize the power of boosted wireless speeds

The campaign continues the brand's strategy to highlight emotional impact over tech specs. Verizon
Headshot of Patrick Kulp

Verizon wants to put a human face on next-generation wireless speeds with a new campaign that spotlights how 5G service can bring more surgical precision to cancer treatments.

The main 30-second spot, set to air during the first game of the NBA Finals tonight, spotlights a partnership between the carrier and medical startup Medivis, in which the latter is tapping Verizon’s 5G service to power its holographic visualization tech for surgeons.

The campaign, which also includes two other ads focusing on Medivis co-founder Chris Morley’s mother’s battle with cancer, is the latest installment in an ongoing advertising push meant to bring an emotional touch to an offering often viewed by and marketed to consumers as a drab utility.

“With our campaigns, we always strive for ways to humanize the technology, even more so with 5G,” Verizon’s chief creative officer, Andrew McKechnie, told Adweek in an email. “The creative you’ll see from Verizon this year will mainly highlight real people in real situations rather than actors. It’s the human stories that resonate the most.”

Developed with agency McGarryBowen, the ads weave firsthand accounts from cancer survivors with a demonstration of how doctors can use Medivis’ augmented-reality headsets to stream a 3D rendering of a tumor within a patient’s body—a task that requires fast-loading and robust network connections.

While 5G service is expected to eventually offer speeds up to 100 times what’s currently available, actual deployment is still in its fledgling stage. Verizon currently only offers 5G to select subscribers in Minneapolis and Chicago who own one of the two compatible phones on the market—the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and, when outfitted with a bulky $200 attachment, the Motorola Z3.

But in a high-stakes race where major carriers have pushed inflated claims about 5G milestones that often come with asterisks and fine print (AT&T’s “5G-E” being perhaps the most brazen example), the same companies have simultaneously struggled to differentiate those claims from meaningful strides toward 5G and explain to a skeptical public why they should care.

Verizon-icon-turned-Sprint-pitchman Paul Marcarelli sums up this dilemma neatly in a recent Sprint campaign called “Decide For Yourself.” “So many [wireless ads] are full of this complicated, tricky language about their network and offers and blah, blah, blah,” he says in one ad.

Sprint's pitchman sums up the challenge of marketing 5G.
Sprint

For its part, Verizon has sought to stand out with emotionally affecting advertising that highlights socially beneficial 5G applications like robotic surgery, education and traffic coordination. Its most high-profile example of this tack was a Super Bowl commercial this year in which the carrier united NFL players (and one coach) with the various first responders who had saved their lives thanks in part to timely communication.

“We look for partners, like Medivis, who will be able to work with us to utilize the capabilities of 5G as a tool to positively shape the future,” McKechnie said. “Our core focus has always been to find innovators and entrepreneurs who will use our network capabilities to do more new and more good.”

CREDITS:
Client: Verizon
Agency: McGarryBowen New York
Production Company: Park Pictures
Director: Christian Weber
Post-production/editorial: Cut+Run
VFX company: The Artery
Sound: Sonic Union
Music: JSM


@patrickkulp patrick.kulp@adweek.com Patrick Kulp is an emerging tech reporter at Adweek.
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