Verizon Bets on Harrison Ford, Pearl Jam to Make Quiet Super Bowl Ad Speak

Diego Scotti knew many of the other ads running in Super Bowl LIV were going to be loud, chaotic and booming. So he decided to use a few smart touches to get his company’s quiet Big Game spot heard.

A voice-over by actor Harrison Ford and a snippet of “River Cross,” an unreleased song by Pearl Jam, are among the elements that were laced into Verizon’s 60-second Super Bowl ad on Sunday, a commercial that eschews special effects and on-screen celebrity cameos in favor of a focus on a message about the reliability of the company’s telecommunications service.

Super Bowl advertisers “operate more like blunt instruments, as opposed to playing with things that maybe are counterintuitive,” says Scotti, Verizon’s chief marketing officer. “You don’t need to go loud and complicated to tell a story.”

The telecom giant takes the Super Bowl stage at a competitive time. Many advertisers are expected to run highly entertaining and even surprising commercials in a bid to capture interest from one of the biggest media audiences available each year. What’s more, Verizon will face some competition. T-Mobile has announced it will run a Super Bowl ad too, featuring actor Anthony Anderson.

Verizon for a second year linked its ad to scenes of first responders and emergency workers. Ford’s voice tells viewers that Verizon’s coming 5G service will make all kinds of things possible, including better communications for firefighters and emergency-room personnel, but notes that nothing will replace the efforts of those personnel. A series of inspirational still photos of rescue workers flows as he continues to speak, with the Pearl Jam song playing quietly all the while.

Ford’s work marks “the first time” he is doing a commercial voice-over,” says the executive, who also notes Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder played a role in the company’s ability to secure rights to use of the group’s song.

Verizon will have more to say right after the Super Bowl as well. A separate post-game ad will feature Eli Manning, who will ask viewers to pledge the time they spend watching football to volunteer in the off-season. The message, says Scotti  is that “there’s still one more opportunity for us to come together and do something as fans.”

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