Bah-humbug! Verizon taps Cecily Strong for Holiday Ads.

♫ This Holiday season, Verizon gave to me, a 5G phone, smartwatch and a bunch of earbuds for free ♫

Verizon is back with its latest holiday campaign featuring Cecily Strong alongside the classic grumpy character of Mr. Scrooge. Can the combination of an SNL star and the cold-hearted Christmas-hating miser send people running to switch to Verizon? Let’s find out…

At Neuro-Insight, we look to the subconscious to see how effectively brands (like Verizon) are able to communicate their message. Our patented technology, Steady State Topography (SST), allows us to measure second-by-second brain responses that breach the conscious and get to the root of human emotion and decision-making. ​ 

Our technology allows us to understand exactly what consumers are encoding into long-term memory. Memory matters because what we subconsciously decide to store in memory today becomes the base for our decision-making in the future (it is a predictive measure). As we explore what consumers are encoding into memory, we also look to the brain to tell us why a particular event or message is being stored – for this, we leverage key diagnostic metrics, including approach / withdrawal, emotional intensity, and engagement. ​ 

Here’s a look into what we found…

Verizon knows what the audience wants, but they don’t know how to convey it to the consumer.

As the story starts, people engage with the idea that it’s Christmas, its Scrooge, and he’s having trouble finding signal. In the middle of the town, there’s this gigantic Verizon sign with Cecily Strong standing atop telling Scrooge to switch to Verizon. This is a motif they constantly play with; however, it doesn’t work to drive any memorability because they aren’t telling people why they should switch.  

In order for branding to be encoded into long-term memory, which will likely result in the viewer remembering the Verizon branding, detail memory must rise above the 0.7 benchmark. Unfortunately, for Verizon, this doesn’t happen here, and branding is missed. Global memory remains high, meaning that people are resonating with the themes of the ad, but the big Verizon letters we’re missed.

People respond positively to promotions, but that means nothing if brand breakthrough doesn’t not occur.

People respond positively to a promotion. In today’s economic climate of recession fears, inflation stress, and general doom-and-gloom economic outlook, we certainly understand why. As soon as they start talking about the offers and promotions, that’s when we realize that Verizon actually understands what consumers want (free phones and free gifts). Memory encoding and engagement really go up at that time, showcasing that the consumers are actually responding to this idea of a free gift from Verizon.  However, branding comes in too late.

As they try to close out the ad, Verizon does what it always does in terms of screen takeover and voiceover. Again, we see that the only time people really come back and engage with the narrative, is when “free tablet, smartwatch, and earbuds” is repeated. The ad starts getting into the Verizon branding and the key tagline that the network America relies on, and you see low levels of memory encoding, showcasing that this message does not really go through because of the creative execution of this piece. This is a key learning for all advertisers. Before you flex your muscles and ask people to buy your product, you have to give reasons to do so. Holiday ad or not, you have to actually be solving a problem. You can’t ask people to switch to Verizon without giving them the reasons to switch to Verizon.

In conclusion, this ad was able to convey two things –

1. Verizon knows what consumers want.

2. Verizon doesn’t know how to convey it properly.

The emotional aspect of the idea resonates, but there’s no memorability of this idea. This is because they haven’t really shown why people need to switch to Verizon. Sadly, for Verizon, Viewers are likely to remember the free gifts, but unlikely to remember that Verizon is the one providing them. Overall, Verizon created a good Holiday ad that plays on the iconic character of Ebenezer Scrooge, paired with a famous comic celebrity, Cecily Strong. The audience might remember gifts, Cecily, Scrooge, and Christmas, but likely won’t remember what brand this is for. So, unfortunately for Verizon, viewers won’t be singing about switching to Verizon this year…

Watch the full timeseries below.


Full compass with layersAsset 3
Full compass with layersAsset 3

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