Verizon Rolls Out New Ad Campaign as Net Neutrality Protests Loom

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The world's leading telecommunication carriers are in an arms race to roll out the fifth generation of wireless technology, more commonly known as 5G. And though it's easy to think of smartphones first when it comes to 5G, the big thing about the tech is that it could make smartphones the least interesting application.

Verizon is rolling with that idea for its latest global ad campaign, which is meant to inspire investors on bets that the telco carrier is waging with the technology.

In one spot, the company shows how sensors in asphalt and cameras on street lamps can help reduce overall pollution. "Who knew asphalt would help save the environment?" a construction worker asks.

In another, a paramedic talks about how a doctor could help save a patient's life by operating remotely using robots armed with 5G tech. Such ideas are plausible—some are already happening today—because the fifth gen of mobile tech allows speeds that are 10, 20 or 30 times faster than current limitations with minimal lag in between.

The spots, dubbed "Humanability," were created by McGarryBowen New York and will first air on Sunday Night Football, or just four days before massive protests are expected to be staged at Verizon retail stores throughout the country.

Verizon is grappling with some consumer backlash as one of its former lawyers, Ajit Pai, now Chairman at the Federal Trade Communications, controversially moves to repeal net neutrality. That could help Verizon make more money as an internet service provider by letting it, along with its competitors, charge extra for web services such as Netflix for the bandwidth they consume.

Diego Scotti, chief marketing officer at Verizon, declined to comment about the hurdles the company faces given the feverish opposition to repealing net neutrality, but provided his two bits on the wireless carrier's upcoming campaign.

"Our business extends beyond wireless," Scotti says. "We have a multi-faceted business that ranges from media to telematics to IoT, and most people don't know about it. We're bringing to life the sum of all those parts and helping educate our stakeholders on how we're leading the future in technology and connectivity."

Such moves make sense for Verizon, as the smartphone market as a whole last year saw its lowest year-over-year growth in new shipments, 2.5 percent, according to recent data from International Data Corporation.

Verizon, which owns media companies AOL and Yahoo, is angling for a near future where it can capture vastly greater amounts of data than today. The company intends to build so-called "smart cities," where it places sensors in things like asphalt, food containers, clothes as well as placing cameras on lampposts.

When that data is coupled with the company's media platforms, Verizon may suddenly offer marketers an appealing alternative to the duopoly that is Google and Facebook. At least, that's the pitch.

"By helping to build this future with smart cities, we're preparing for new markets and revenue opportunities that are going to emerge," Scotti says, declining to share specifics. "We are confident in our technologies and capabilities to heavily invest in these areas for the long term."

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