Cannes Lions

How to Use a Pay Phone if You Were Born After 1997: An excruciatingly painful tutorial for Gen Z.

VERIZON CREATIVE MARKETING, New York / VERIZON / 2023

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Overview

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Overview

Background

As America’s most reliable network dating back to the days of the once-ubiquitous pay phone, we had a vested interest in teaching Gen Z how to use it before it was gone for good. We just had to find the right moment to do it.

Idea

On August 13, aka Pay Phone Patent Day, we published a tongue-in-cheek “How To” on TikTok, filmed on the last pay phone in NYC. Because the TikTok generation most likely has never seen—much less used—a pay phone IRL, we gave them instructions that purported to be super easy but were actually a never-ending list of convoluted steps. It was an effective (and cringey) way to show Gen Z that Verizon’s always connected people. Even when it was way more of a pain in the ass.

Strategy

We knew we had to put it on TikTok, the platform young people loved best, on one of the most important holidays of the year, at least for companies named Verizon: Pay Phone Patent Day.

Execution

One 50-second TikTok with the platform’s signature automated VO guiding the user through supposedly easy steps that increasingly got more convoluted as the steps progressed (like, having to find the equally scarce yellow phone book). The post copy was simple: “For those of you who celebrate Pay Phone Patent Day, we see you.”

Outcome

The response was immediate. Comments poured in; one user asked us to “Stop giving my mom ideas.” The TikTok algorithm featured the video on its ForYou page—the ultimate sign of success on the app. It captured the conversation of the moment, and soon became Verizon’s best-performing organic social post ever, with +324% impressions, +9039% total interactions, and +2039% total video views over our TikTok average.

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