Verizon's Diego Scotti asks, why can't we all just get along?

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Advertising isn't rocket science, collaboration is the key, says the CMO at ANA

Verizon Communication’s Diego Scotti doesn’t buy the argument that the agency model is broken.

"I can understand why it feels that way," the executive vice president and chief marketing officer of the telecommunications company said in a speech titled "The Power of Collaboration" delivered at the 2016 ANA Masters of Marketing conference. "I think that’s a lazy way of thinking about it."

US advertising spend is half a trillion dollars. By comparison, NASA has a $20 billion annual budget. "Are you telling me that advertising is more difficult than sending a ship to Mars?" Scotti asked. "If you can’t figure it out, then you’re not trying hard enough."

Instead of throwing up his hands, Scotti opts for collaboration. Verizon has 160,000 employees and $131 billion in revenue. It is No. 13 on the Fortune 500 list, and yet, the company opts for the slower, "harder to measure and tougher to take credit for" method of collaboration (versus working in silos).

"I see some of my competitors going all in on single agencies, and I find it very hard to believe that they’re getting high-quality work out of the partnership," Scotti said. "No one can be good at everything."

And the way he commands competing agencies to play together in the same sandbox is by taking some of the blame for the distrust.

"It’s also the fault of clients who put everyone in constant pitch mode," Scotti said. "If everything is a jump ball, what I’m really telling my agencies is that I don’t believe in their distinct expertise, that they’re all just as good as their last pitch."

Instead, Scotti brings together senior agency leaders for monthly meetings. These heads are often in competition with one another, working on Verizon, Ford and/or GM accounts, he said, but when they walk into Scotti’s office, "They are all part of the Verizon team, and they are on my time."

Verizon also partners with the best, diverse talent, he said. That’s currently Jamie Foxx, who stars in the brand’s TV advertising, and Rory Kennedy, a documentary filmmaker who is telling the story of the Internet divide in American schools for the brand. As one could expect, the strategists behind both Foxx and Kennedy’s projects aren’t from the same agency but two different ones: Michael Bierut of Pentagram and Guy Featherstone of Wieden + Kennedy.

If that weren’t enough, Scotti formed something he calls a "Challenger Board," a group of people whose job is to tell Scotti why his ideas are stupid and why he’ll waste Verizon’s money. Still, he calls this group "the most fun."

"Don’t be afraid to hire someone who you disagree with," he said. "Your ego may take a hit in the short term, but I promise you that you’re smart even if there’s no one there to tell you that every day."

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