Cannes Lions

First Responders “The Team that Wouldn’t Be Here”

ZENITH, New York / VERIZON / 2019

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Case Film
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Defining the consumer experience with a network is critical. It can be a key differentiator in what is perceived as a commodity category. Verizon is ‘America’s Most Reliable Network.’ But what does that actually mean? Our goal: define this truth, through activation, communications and product innovation, increase positive sentiment around Verizon and of course drive sales


As mobile technology progresses, the difference between networks gets harder to perceive. Consumers notice wireless carriers mostly when they don’t work well. When your target audience is everyone, and network differentiation is irrelevant, it’s hard to stand out.

Indifference is pervasive, but America’s most reliable network, Verizon needed to show why, and when, reliability matters.

Inspiration came from the most badass woman on the planet- Mother Nature.

2017 was a year of unprecedented natural disasters. Floods, hurricanes and fires draped the headlines. Throughout each event, Verizon proved that it works during emergencies, while other networks crumbled under mass simultaneous calls.

Reliability matters, and there are moments when it matters most.

When your life is on the line, you don't want a service that just works, you want the very best available. We had to show our commitment—through communications, activation and innovation—to this reliability, and its value to consumers.


Verizon’s target audience consists of >100MM customers and prospects. A secondary but important audience is those who control government network contracts ($6B+ annually)—the majority of which involve emergency services.

To engage both, we needed a program that highlighted reliability while featuring these highly valued emergency service workers. So we leveraged the fact more First Responders rely on Verizon than any other carrier.

But how do you deliver the abstract notion of reliability to these audiences in an authentic and meaningful way? Our solution: find actual survivors of disasters and the first responders who saved them.

Using a mix of databases (TinEye and LexisNexis) and detective work from researchers, journalists and investigators used by the FBI, we tracked down survivors and first responders.

We then gave these people an opportunity to reconnect. Reunion calls became the basis of our communications; all set to images and footage of actual events.


We created a program that was about connection- technical and emotional. Identifying people who had been saved by First Responders, we reconnected them by phone.

Using actual calls, we inspired the country to connect with First Responders, unveiling this campaign at the Super Bowl.

• Social kicked off on game day with Snapchat stories, Twitter NFL pre-roll, Instagram videos and page posts.

• A :10 voiceover from Justin Timberlake in halftime show encouraged viewers to "remember first responders," and share appreciation at, to donate to the Red Cross (w/$ matched by Verizon).

• ‘Answering the Call’ :60 aired directly after JT, and post show within ‘This is Us’.

• Post game a ‘Thank You’ social post, launched “The Passing Lane” network innovation that prioritizes First Responder calls, putting them through first.

By celebrating First Responders, helping Americans connect and backing it all with technological innovation, we solidified the importance of reliability.


Bringing these stories to life we made reliability tangible.

• Verizon generated the highest positive sentiment- 97%.

• 100K+ connected with First Responders.

• Social listening showed a 4564% increase in people talking.

• 787% increase in positive sentiment moving from #4 to #1.

• #1 most talked about brand on Twitter on Super Bowl Sunday

• Covered by 400+ outlets, 1.7B + Impressions.

• New phone contracts went up 500K from the same period YOY.

• Verizon received direct contact from hundreds of government agencies, generating valuable sales leads.

• Ad ranking (breakthrough /memorability) #5

• $366k in donations generated via social shares

• 358k site visits

• 119 pieces of earned coverage

• Verizon is continuing to honor first responders this year by telling the stories of 12 NFL stars whose lives were saved by First Responders – The Team that Wouldn’t Be Here.

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