Verizon expands its DE&I reach with new responsible marketing action plan

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What you need to know:

  • Extends Diversity, Equity and Inclusion commitment to impact the marketing ecosystem inside and outside Verizon
  • Addresses equity in the creative supply chain to further an inclusive working environment, enhance policies to prevent bias in advertising and media, and strengthen content policies to increase transparency
  • Mobilizes powerhouse partners Interpublic Group, Publicis and WPP to strengthen impact across its channels

BASKING RIDGE, NJ - Verizon is building on the company’s long-term commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) through a new responsible marketing action plan. The plan, driven by Verizon and its partners, Interpublic Group (IPG), Publicis and WPP, is a result of ongoing efforts to address DE&I in the marketing industry with tangible actions that drive lasting impact at scale.

Verizon’s responsible marketing action plan addresses four key drivers that will impact the marketing ecosystem, both within the company and with its partners. The plan includes increasing diversity and equity in both representation and economic investment within the creative supply chain; continuing to build an inclusive environment for all talent to thrive and retain diverse talent; strengthening practices aimed at fighting racism, bias and stereotypes in all advertising, content and media; and maintaining content policies that prohibit Verizon creative from being placed or run in broadcast and digital environments where hateful, denigrating, discriminatory and other types of harmful content appear.

“Verizon’s responsible marketing action plan sets a new DE&I standard that is not only the right thing to do, it is good for business,” said Diego Scotti, Chief Marketing Officer, Verizon.

There’s no silver bullet for success so we’re tackling solutions that are holistic and cover the problem from multiple angles. Success requires this kind of comprehensive approach applied with consistency. I couldn’t be more appreciative that our partners, IPG, Publicis and WPP have joined us - the first time these three partners have come together to drive impact.”

Verizon put a stake in the ground in 2016 with a call for agency partners to diversify the teams that support the Verizon business. Since then, Verizon’s DE&I Agency Council, made up of senior agency team leads, has been meeting quarterly to read out on progress and ensure accountability and transparency. Expanding on these actions, Verizon’s responsible marketing action plan includes:

1. Increase diversity across the creative supply chain

Verizon is committed to increasing diversity and equity in both representation and economic investment across the creative supply chain. This includes a commitment to increase spend in 2021 across diverse owned production companies: 

  • Video: Commitment to spend over 30% with diverse owned video production companies and increase video productions using diverse directors from 24% to 30%
  • Experiential: Commitment to spend over 30% with diverse owned experiential production companies
  • Print: Commitment to spend over 30% of the company’s print production spend with diverse owned print production companies 

Verizon has also committed to delivering programs that have a lasting impact on diverse owned media companies by providing increased access, resources and investment focused on enabling long term growth. This includes increasing the spend with Black-owned media companies. Verizon has also created a series of Multicultural Publisher Summits that will provide multicultural targeted as well as owned and operated media companies access to partner with Verizon and gain from learnings and consultation from the brand’s leaders. The first summit will launch in May, in partnership with Allen Media Group, and specifically focus on Black-owned and operated media companies.

Aware of the important role internal teams play within the creative supply chain, Verizon has been doing consistent work to build diverse teams for years, requiring agencies to report quarterly on the diversity of their teams supporting Verizon. The latest Verizon data from Q4 2020 showed:

  • People of color made up 37.1% of the combined Verizon marketing and agency teams, compared to the U.S. Census benchmark of 36%. New hires for people of color was up to 49%
  • Women made up 50.9% of the combined Verizon marketing and agency teams compared to the U.S. census benchmark of 50%. Women new hires accounted for 54.1%

2. Continue to build an inclusive work environment and retain diverse talent

Verizon’s adfellows program, which guides entry level, diverse marketers through rotations within client and agency marketing teams, has made a lasting impact on the make-up of the industry. What started in 2017 as a program with five agency partners has grown to include 

18 agencies across IPG, Publicis and WPP, and five brands including American Express, Anheuser-Busch, IBM and Walmart. 90% of the participants who have gone through the program have received full time jobs with a 95% retention rate within the industry over the past 4 years.

Building off the success of adfellows, Verizon is now tackling mid-level agency talent retention with the creation of AdDisruptors. The one of a kind, six month program provides access to speakers and one-on-one mentoring from thought leaders throughout the industry to diverse talent with five to eight years of experience. The goal of the program is to inspire the next generation of marketing leaders and retain the diverse talent working on Verizon’s agency teams.

3. Fighting racism, bias and stereotypes in all advertising, content and media

  • To help ensure Verizon’s creative remains free from racism, bias and stereotypes, the company has taken a number of actions to strengthen accountability on diversity and inclusion including the establishment of a unique Verizon Diversity Inclusion Equality Measure tool that will track the representation of race, gender, ethnicity and identity. This is in addition to:
  • Utilizing the industry’s Gender Equality Measure (GEM) tool which tracks accurate gender representation, and a partnership with the ANA’s #SeeHer to create ongoing training and boot camps for internal and agency teams to ensure females are accurately represented in all aspects of content creation
  • Creating mandatory content bias training that Verizon’s marketing and agency teams must complete
  • Formation of Inclusive Work Panels at each agency made up of diverse team members to serve as an advisory council and pressure test creative

4. Responsible content policies

Brand safety has always been critical to marketing at Verizon, but over the past 12 months it has been necessary to take actions that show additional accountability towards being a responsible marketer. Informed by Verizon’s participation with the World Federation of Advertisers’ Global Alliance for Responsible Media, Verizon’s marketing policies have been reworked to strengthen prohibitions against harassment, hate speech, privacy, and misinformation, and to be transparent about how Verizon’s DE&I values will influence its marketing partnerships going forward. Along with this refreshed set of policies comes a commitment that Verizon will invest with partners who have shared values. The guidelines can be found here.

These efforts are part of Citizen Verizon, the company’s responsible business plan for economic, environmental, and social advancement, and Verizon’s commitment to move the world forward with a team of people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

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