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How Chewbacca, BB-8, And JJ Abrams Helped Make This New Star Wars Verizon Ad

Apparently network speed is also pretty important in a galaxy far, far away.

How Chewbacca, BB-8, And JJ Abrams Helped Make This New Star Wars Verizon Ad

If you could pick any film to attach your brand to just ahead of the Christmas season, with all due respect to Mr. Bond, it’s got to be Star Wars. But as any marketer will tell you, it’s incredibly tough to integrate oneself into such an iconic and specific world without looking like a complete and total nerf herder.

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So Verizon and agency Wieden+Kennedy New York went to great lengths to make sure the brand’s foray into a galaxy far, far away looked as real as possible. First, there’s the dynamic duo of Chewbacca and everyone’s favorite new droid BB-8, trying to solve an unknown problem in the threatening environs of a Star Destroyer. The characters, the situation, the stormtroopers, the ship all look straight out of Episode VII. And there’s a very good reason for that.

JJ Abrams, Jedi Master of the new Star Wars universe himself, was heavily involved in all stages of the ad’s creative process, everything from helping find the right director, to set and sound design. The spot is directed by Tommy Gormley, a co-producer and first assistant director on The Force Awakens, who also enlisted the film’s director of photography Dan Mindel, as well as most of the original crew who shot it at Pinewood Studios in the UK where the movie was filmed.

“My entire pitch for the spot was that it should be totally authentic–that it should look like a missing scene from the movie–that was the touchstone for me,” says Gormley. “We basically reassembled the crew from the feature film. We also shot on film, and used the same anamorphic lens package from Episode VII, so that all the grain, the saturation, the aberrations would match the film exactly.”

Gormley says the stakes on an ad like this are very high because everyone feels ownership over Star Wars, but says the way the Verizon brand is integrated here is seamless and real. “You have to get it right,” he says, adding that it was a thrill to see the two often disparate worlds of commercials and feature films really come together in a way he’s never seen before. “Having worked in both mediums for years, that was a first for me–seeing two groups of super talented people morphing together to produce something unique and, I sincerely hope, good.”

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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