Verizon’s Responsible Marketing Action Plan raises the bar again
The company continues to outperform industry benchmarks across the marketing ecosystem, from economic investment and equity to distribution and creative supply chain
NEW YORK - Continuing its history of industry-leading responsible business practices, Verizon has released the 2022 results of its Responsible Marketing Action Plan, which was established to impact the marketing ecosystem both inside and outside of the company and drive societal change. The plan builds on Verizon’s long-term commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion by addressing four key drivers of the marketing value chain, both within Verizon and with its partners:
Increasing diversity and equity in both representation and economic investment across the creative supply chain
Continuing to build an inclusive environment for talent that reflects the communities we serve
Strengthening practices aimed at fighting bias and stereotypes in all advertising, content, and media
Maintaining the gold standard of brand safety, with 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.
For the second year in a row, Verizon exceeded all of the goals laid out by the Responsible Marketing Action Plan and is maintaining accountability by transparently reporting its results. The company is also adding new targets to continue expanding the plan’s reach, demonstrating how brands can leverage their investments and ability to shape cultural norms to drive lasting change.
“This progress is part of Verizon’s company-wide commitment to responsible business practices. As one of the most influential advertisers in the country, we embrace our leadership role in driving action around equity,” said Diego Scotti, Chief Marketing Officer at Verizon. “Verizon and our partners have delivered strong, consistent results and will continue to push for greater accountability. I encourage other brands to join us in this effort. To build momentum, you have to take the first step. Together, we have the power to make an even bigger impact.”
Verizon put a stake in the ground in 2016 with a call for agency partners to take action to support diversity on the teams that support the Verizon business. Since then, Verizon’s DE&I Agency Council, made up of senior agency team leads from Interpublic Group (IPG), Publicis, and WPP, has been meeting quarterly to read out on progress and ensure accountability and transparency. These discussions have led to a number of ongoing initiatives to address shared challenges, including the creation of adfellows, a first-of-its-kind paid fellowship designed to break through the diversity and inclusion gap in advertising and marketing by providing the next generation of diverse entry-level talent with meaningful job experience and career acceleration opportunities. This was later followed by the creation of Ad Disruptors, a program aimed at leadership development and retention of mid-level diverse talent.
In 2017, Verizon unveiled the first of its kind “Responsible Marketing Policy” that set a gold standard for brand safety and remains one of the strongest criteria in digital advertising.
Then in 2021, Verizon further built on this commitment with the creation of the Responsible Marketing Action Plan, and each year the company has adjusted targets and added new parameters to continue broadening the plan’s holistic impact.
As evidence of the plan’s ability to drive meaningful progress, Verizon’s combined marketing and external agency staff is represented by 40.8% people of color, which is a 1.5 percent point increase since 2021. The ethnic diversity on Verizon’s marketing team is almost on par with the most recent US Census report, and is significantly above the Association of National Advertisers’ average for marketing organizations at 32.3% according to the 2022 Association of National Advertisers Diversity Report for the Marketing and Advertising Industry. Verizon also exceeded the 2022 telecommunications industry benchmark for SeeHer’s Gender Equity Measure (GEM) by seven points.
The 2022 Responsible Marketing Action Plan results include:
Increase diversity and equity in both representation and economic investment across the creative supply chain:
Verizon set a goal to spend 40% of its video, experiential, and print production budget with diverse companies in 2022. The company exceeded that goal across all formats:
Video: Verizon spent 45.7% with diverse-owned video production companies; additionally, 44.4% of video productions used diverse directors.
Experiential: The company spent 42.6% with diverse-owned experiential production companies.
Print: The company spent 41.5% with diverse-owned print production companies.
Build an inclusive work environment for talent that reflects the communities we serve:
Verizon made continued progress in its efforts to build diverse teams and foster an inclusive work environment for talent. By the end of 2022:
People of color made up 40.8% of the combined Verizon marketing and agency team, an increase from 39.3% at year-end 2021. The 2022 Association of National Advertisers Diversity Report for the Marketing and Advertising Industry set the industry benchmark at 32.3%.
Women made up 56.9% of the combined Verizon marketing and agency teams, an increase from 51.7% at year-end 2021.
Fight bias in advertising, content and media:
As part of Verizon’s ongoing efforts to keep its creative free from racism, bias, and stereotypes, 100% of Verizon’s advertising goes through gender and cultural bias testing. Using SeeHer’s Gender Equity Measure (GEM), a research methodology that quantifies gender bias, Verizon achieved a GEM score of 99 for the first half of 2022 – seven points above the telecom benchmark.
Verizon also uses Diversity Inclusion & Equity Measure (DIEM), a proprietary tool that vets the representation of race, gender, ethnicity and identity. DIEM provides a two-pronged approach to identifying cultural impact in advertising by providing pre-market measurements that optimize ads prior to launch, as well as in-market measurements that track progress over time, in an effort to ensure consumers are portrayed authentically and respectfully.
In addition, all Verizon marketers and agency partners are required to complete agency anti-racism and bias training to help identify bias throughout the creative process from research to production. Verizon will continue to require this training bi-annually.
Responsible Content Policies:
Through Verizon’s continued participation with the World Federation of Advertisers’ Global Alliance for Responsible Media, the company received a 99.1% rating within the Integral Ad Science Brand Safety measure that counts the percentage of media placements that do not violate the brand safety threshold. Verizon aims to achieve a 99% rating or higher annually.
New Initiatives for 2023:
Increase sustainable production: 100% of Verizon’s video production and experiential events will execute a waste management diversion plan with the goal of increasing asset reuse (donation, recycling, upcycling) and creating a more sustainable approach to video production.
Support a diverse range of brand ambassadors and influencers: Verizon seeks to have a diverse range of influencers, creators and ambassadors who reflect the communities the company serves, and will begin tracking these relationships to assess diversity.
To help other companies implement the responsible marketing practices outlined in their plan, Verizon created the Responsible Marketing Action Blueprint, a set of free online tools that packages together the learnings from Verizon’s work around DE&I, to help other marketers identify where they can make an impact and take measurable actions to get there.
Verizon’s commitment to responsible marketing is part of Citizen Verizon: the company’s responsible business plan for economic, environmental and social advancement that leverages technology, innovation, and people to help solve some of the biggest challenges impacting underrepresented populations, through the pillars of climate protection, human prosperity, and digital inclusion.