The Verizon Super Bowl Ad Is Problematic, Here’s Why
Like many of you, I settled in to watch the Super Bowl for the football, the food, the entertainment, and of course the commercials. I dig the whole night of entertainment the Super Bowl offers. I know we're gonna get good fun ads, I know we're gonna get some awesome movie trailers, and I know a couple of ads will go the serious route. Dodge Ram trucks did God Made a farmer a few years ago. McDonald's wanted you to call your loved ones back in 2015. Sometimes they like to tug at the heart strings. This year it was Verizon's turn.
That's a fantastically made ad, supporting the mobile network, hitting the right notes, and supporting our first responders. Not just our first responders in the general sense of that phrase, but literally, ours, Quincy's Fire Department. The first call featured is in regards to a December 2012 house fire QFD Lieutenant Jack Ray responded to. It's a sweet, touching moment hearing these two reconnect after he saved her life.
There's just one problem. Verizon doesn't have coverage in Quincy. Or throughout this entire region. One of our corporate guys was in town last week, he couldn't get a signal at all. "To save his life," as the saying goes. When I moved to this area, I had to switch from Verizon, a carrier I had been with for 10 years, because they didn't have coverage.
To digress for a quick minute, I want to say for the record that I have zero problems with the sentiment expressed in the ad. I've donated time and resources to various military and first responder charities and organizations over the years. So I don't take issue with highlighting the fantastic work first responders in general do, and specifically our local fire fighters, police officers and paramedics. Anything that shines a light on them is fantastic.
Within reason, however...
The Verizon ad felt exploitative. Their closing title cards:
Followed by this one:
It paints the picture that Verizon had a hand in this. There is the implication of them taking credit. "Yeah, we helped do that! Good job, us!" They don't have service here. They are not a reliable network in this region, and there is no way they could "make sure they get [the call]." Make no mistake that hidden behind the good intentions, is pure motive for profit, and it's not very well hidden if they're spending $5million to get the word of those good intentions out there. They are exploiting this tragedy and our emotions, to get you to switch from whatever carrier you currently have to them. The problem is we can't. The people in the community where the tragedy they featured happened can't use the product they're selling.
It felt like a cheap, exploitative ploy. And it worked. It worked in spades. I saw so many posts talking about how great Verizon is for doing that, and defending it. Again, I have zero qualms with the sentiment put forth by the ad. I disagree with the messenger and how it was delivered. Had Verizon picked three from regions where they have exceptional coverage? Hey no problem! Good on ya! You're actually doing something, Verizon!
I'm not calling for a lawsuit of false advertising, I'm not calling for a boycott. But for a community as community-minded as Quincy, to have Verizon swoop in and brand a community thing they had no hand in? It just feels crass.