Cannes Lions

Full Transparency by Verizon

HUGE, New York / VERIZON / 2021

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Overview

Background

The truth is under assault. And because online information can look and sound legitimate, misinformation often hides in plain sight. That’s perhaps why 47% of Americans say it’s difficult to know if the information they receive is true (AP-NORC/USAFacts poll, November 2019). Experts have likened “fake news” to salts, sugars and fats—we crave them and overindulge when we don’t have protections in place. Now, amid a global pandemic and following a deeply polarized U.S. election cycle, the stakes for ensuring the accuracy of information have been elevated to a matter of life and death. Against this backdrop, we were tasked with communicating Verizon’s core brand pillars of innovation and transparency in a novel, differentiated and unexpected way that also served the public good. Our solution was Full Transparency by Verizon, a radical transparency technology product and initiative to ensure what Verizon communicates externally is 100% vetted and verified.

Idea

The truth is under assault. Trust in the media is at an all-time low. Get the story wrong, and the damage can be measured in dollars, disruption—even lives.

Now imagine if news published to the web reflected a clear record of changes, available for anyone to fact-check. The effect on public trust would be incalculable. As an organization that connects people to information, Verizon believes in the sanctity of facts—but needed help translating belief into action. Our response: Full Transparency by Verizon, an open-source, blockchain-based product designed to restore transparency, rebuild trust, and establish online integrity.

The product interface reflects changes to published news releases without distracting from the content itself—surfacing the most recent, authoritative version of the content record while reinforcing the critical idea that as new details emerge, it’s not unusual for information to change. And because it’s open source, Full Transparency is implementable by all forward-thinking brands.

Strategy

Design is an underappreciated—and underutilized—communications tool. Great design doesn’t just make things beautiful or make things work. It also communicates a vision of a world that doesn’t yet exist. Our PR strategy centered on literally making the product the message via a first-of-its-kind digital execution. With blockchain, we could turn a novel, disruptive and newsworthy technology toward serving the public good, while generating attention and starting a much-needed conversation among our target audience of journalists, investors, legislators, corporations and those who felt duty-bound to join the fight against misinformation. For the same reasons, we also chose to launch five days before the 2020 U.S. presidential election, when the conversation around misinformation had reached unprecedented levels. Our goal was to position Verizon as a transformational thought leader at the forefront of a new, vital movement in which cutting-edge technologies could be simultaneously used for communications and doing good.

Execution

Because online information can look and sound legitimate, misinformation often hides in plain sight. Humans are largely defenseless against this onslaught, susceptible as we are to novelty and information that confirms our biases—true or not. The key feature that makes Full Transparency by Verizon such a potent countermeasure against misinformation is its backbone: the public blockchain. By committing all changes to press releases to the blockchain, Verizon puts itself on the record to a degree that’s unprecedented in corporate communications.

Experts have suggested that when online platforms integrate visual cues—such as badges or symbols—users are more discerning about what they believe and share. This insight prompted us to develop an interface and badging system that helps journalists and analysts fact-check, and the public to acknowledge Verizon stands behind the information it shares.

From the beginning, we knew we’d design, prototype, engineer and validate the product backend and interface—the latter intended to keep readers’ attention on the news they’re consuming without calling attention to itself. But because Verizon believed so strongly in Full Transparency, we secured a brand compliance exception to change the look and behavior of Verizon’s iconic red check mark—a testament to trust earned at the highest levels.

Though Full Transparency is still new, it represents one of Verizon’s most trafficked news items of the past year, having received almost 1 billion media impressions and more than 60 feature articles. PR Week dedicated an entire webcast to discussion of the product, and Hans Vestberg, Verizon CEO, celebrated its launch on his social channels. Verizon acknowledges that the product’s utility doesn’t end at the doors of the corporate newsroom. Indeed, as an expression of what we call transparency technology, Full Transparency by Verizon is a powerful tool for establishing digital provenance, and for building narratives we all can believe in.

Outcome

Though Full Transparency by Verizon is still in its infancy, the product represents one of Verizon’s most trafficked news items of the past year, having received almost 1 billion media impressions and more than 60 feature articles. PR Week dedicated an entire webcast to discussion of the product, and Hans Vestberg, Verizon CEO, celebrated its launch on his social channels. Verizon acknowledges that the product’s utility doesn’t end at the doors of the corporate newsroom. Indeed, as an expression of what we call transparency technology, Full Transparency has put Verizon into contact with organizations across industries who want to elevate corporate transparency for their audiences.

Full Transparency by Verizon is a powerful tool for crafting a narrative we all can believe in.

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