By Quentin Fottrell
Even an amicable split, as anyone will know, has its awkward moments. And so it is with the “Verizon Guy” who was gently retired from the cell phone giant’s ad campaigns.
Paul Marcarelli, the actor who played “the Verizon Guy,” has been reflecting on his near-decade as the company’s wacky TV personality. Now that he’s hanging up his horn-rimmed Buddy Holly spectacles, Marcarelli has spoken about how that catchphrase was a lucrative and restricting deal for the-then out-of-work actor, and how it plagued his personal life.
His well-worn catchphrase even came back to haunt him when he attended his grandmother’s funeral. As the coffin was being lowered into the ground, a family friend whispered: “Can you hear me now?” On a happier note, he delivered his catchphrase to 85,000 football fans at a halftime show during a Buffalo Bills’ season opener.
As is not uncommon with such contracts, Verizon also kept him on a tight rein: with his initial five-year contract, which began in November 2001, Marcarelli says his contract prohibited him from doing any other commercial work and stipulated that he not discuss any aspect of the “Test Man” campaign. It was amended in 2006 to allow him to promote his own projects.
He will still do some work for Verizon, but tells The Atlantic, “I’m no longer committed to them like I was.” Marcarelli says he was told by email that Verizon was taking its ads in a different direction. (Brenda Raney, a spokeswoman for Verizon says the company has an ongoing relationship with him “and in that context we have conversations.”)
Verizon’s latest campaign, “Rule the Air,” is an ensemble piece reminiscent of Benetton’s emotive “All the colors of the world” ads with no stand-out star. It also comes with a strangely worded social message: “Air has no prejudice…” So is this the end of the “face” of a campaign? Raney says, “We do not share our advertising strategy.”
Do you miss the Verizon Guy’s commercials?