Apple and Verizon's 5G Ad Reminds Us: Chris Rock Is Older, and So Are We

Welcome to a new world. Now, try to keep up

"Remember when you tried to watch Bigger & Blacker, and by the time it downloaded, I was older and thinner?" Chris Rock quips.

"5G Just Got Real," conceived by TBWA\Media Arts Lab with director Wayne McClammy of Hungry Man, is the latest for Apple's iPhone 12 Pro, and Verizon 5G with ultra wideband. It's fast-paced, sardonically cheerful, and supersaturated. And Rock—who feels like an old friend we haven't seen in a long, long time—guides us through it with as much bemusement as we feel.

5G Just Got Real | Verizon

In terms of aesthetic, we're reminded of Sony's early Bravia work, when HD made us feel like we were all seeing color for the first time. Half of this ad is easily about the splashy backdrops that Rock shuttles through, almost gratuitously: CGI giraffes graze his lawn. While crossing a pond, a shark leaps up to attack a tropical bird. His personal cinema is open-air, plush red armchairs aglow against the greenery. 

And in a garden speckled with (could those be Bravia?!) balls, reps of the Gen-Z set consume esports from a tiny parthenon, Olympians glowing with smug youth.

"Remember when you found out esports was a real thing, and kids half your age were making twice your salary?" he asks.

"Yup," the youthy Borg says in unison without bothering to look up.

"Remember when I told you to clean your room?!" he demands, head whipping around to face his daughter. This is the kind of cameo people of a certain age get excited about, like when Will Smith plays alongside his son, or Beyoncé features Blue Ivy in a music video.

(It's evidence of time's relentlessness, and our predictability, that we catch these connections but weren't all that interested when our parents reminded us of the people who conceived Drew Berrymore or Kate Hudson.)

"Nope," she replies.

"You'll remember when your allowance is due! You never forget that!" Rock retorts with the good-natured fatigue of a parent whose only real remaining weapon is passive aggression.

Because in addition to the visual orgy, designed to showcase 5G's quality, this ad is about two other things. It hosts a bevvy of topical keywords, from esports to Janelle Monáe to the NFL, whose games you can now view through five different camera angles ("Football just got 5G real!"). It's as if somebody checked Google Trends and printed out everything that wasn't a conspiracy theory.

This makes the work feel topical, but the obvious name-dropping emphasizes the next point: Chris Rock's gotten older ... and so have we, the millennials who remember him before he was, like us, just another tired parent who can barely keep up.

The entire premise—"Remember when…?"—is a way of showcasing 5G's boggling speeds by reminding us of all the stuff we've already lived through, stuff kids today will never know or understand. "Remember when the song of the summer took the whole summer to download?" is our "I walked to school in five miles of snow."

In fact, the ad's very start ensures you don't miss the oddly jovial memento mori: "Hi, I'm Chris Rock," Rock says, holding up the new iPhone 12. "Oh, it's not about me. I get it. No, no, no, zoom in on it!"—this last to whoever's holding the camera. 

We're reminded that our stars aren't today's stars, not the way they were when we were young. And this exchange with someone off-camera also nods to the conversational misfires that happen when people of different generations try to get on the same page over technology. (Another unintended sign of age: How far we've drifted from the days when Apple was the kind of brand people just understood, and that barely required a learning curve. Oh, Steve Jobs. You were mean, but we miss you.)

The ad launched after Apple's "Hi, Speed" event yesterday, when it revealed its lineup of iPhone 12 devices with 5G tech. It also promotes Verizon's just-launched nationwide 5G network, which really is impressive. We can still remember when it took a week to download a movie, and kids today will barely remember lag.

The piece ends with Rock in a tux, flanked by a live band and fireworks, while people on his phone comment live, on a platform that looks like Twitch. "5G just got real!" he exclaims, and we pan away.


Client: Apple, iPhone
Client: Verizon
Agency: TBWA\Media Arts Lab
Director: Wayne McClammy
Production Company: Hungry Man

Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is the European markets editor at Muse by Clio. She also writes about gaming and fashion, and whatever else she's interested in, really. She's based in Paris and North Italy, so if you're local, say hi. She might eat all your food.

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