Verizon CMO: ‘Clients can’t become lazy when it comes to agency relationships’

Verizon EVP CMO Diego Scotti

Verizon might have an in-house agency run by an ex-Apple vet, but with an 11-strong creative shop roster on its books it’s no stranger to spinning multiple agency plates. As the business builds for the future, it is not only prioritising these relationships but also working on a blueprint for its own marketing department.

In a world where the agency model is becoming increasingly fragmented, and in which just 40% of marketers trust their media agencies, Verizon’s chief marketing officer Diego Scotti arguesthat clients themselves have a role to play in maintaining lasting relationships.

“One of the things that really concerns me is the ‘happy trigger’ that I see in a lot of clients. At every turn [brands] can’t just be firing the agency thinking that if [they] do that, then things are going to get better," he recently told The Drum.

“We have to be careful that as advertisers we don’t become lazy in our relationships with agencies. It takes work and it takes time. Those relationships need to be nurtured – not like ‘let’s have dinner every once in a while’ – I mean working on the work and [collaborating]. It’s not an easy task. You have to be focused on that and you have to be consistent.”

Delivery with accountability and strong collaboration between agencies hold the key to building long-term relationships, he says.

Verizon’s in-house creative shop is dubbed '140' and is overseen by former Apple creative Andrew McKechnie. Scotti would say it embodies these principles with a team working together across creative, production, strategy and project management but the marketer is explicit that this outfit was designed to work with its roster, not against it.

Building the marketing department of the future

When it comes to Verizon’s own 600-strong marketing department Scotti says he’s building a multidisciplinary team based on three interconnected components.

“We need very strong commercial marketers in our team. People that know how to develop products, how to develop value propositions, how to price in the right way, how to create the right route to market, and distribution for those products.

“Then [we] need a group of content and creative development [professionals] that connect the customers with those products and propositions in compelling, interesting and differentiated ways.

“ [We also] need the third leg, which is the experience… what happens in a lot of companies is that sometimes these things are disconnected,” Scotti says. Bringing in social responsibility, which he said brands need to have, cannot be shoved in a corner. It must be fully integrated.

“My task, and what we’re trying to build here, is creating an ecosystem of a marketing team that has those full components and that will work together. Really easy to say, really hard to do. We’ve been at this for four years now and will continue to do so,” he explains.

So how is Scotti nurturing this talent within Verizon’s four walls?

The brand that has been outspoken on the need for its partners to build diverse teams to service it, but it would appear the same rule applies internally.

“I know sometimes it sounds like a cliché, but especially what we do in this day and age, you need the best talent, you need the best talent to stay, and you need the most diverse talent that you can find. So, not only attracting the talent and recruiting the talent, but [we need to] create the [right] conditions internally, both with our own talent as well as our agencies.”

The evolution of the CMO

Scotti arrived at Verizon in 2014 from J. Crew and has been instrumental in transitioning the brand from being known as a telecoms provider to tech company. In a world where the chief marketer tenure has shrunk to just three-and-a-half years, he has no plans to leave soon and offers some advice to his peers.

“From an internal standpoint, chief marketing officers need to prioritize a very strong alignment with business leadership… there needs to be a clear alignment of purpose, and clear alignment of objectives.”

He adds that he’s “never worked closer” with Verizon’s chief technology officer (Kyle Malady), and says chief marketing officers need to have a sound knowledge of tech and should prioritize it as a “key component” of what they do.

“That to me is key internally,” he adds.

Externally, he says, chief marketers should focus on sales as well as branding: “If you focus on growth, and building the brand, your tenure will take care of itself."

The success of a chief marketer, to Scotti, comes from being able to put out creative that engages consumers while using data to reach and target the right customers. A proclivity for thinking about communications as another element of the customer experience, instead of the whole experience, helps.

“I love what I do because I work on everything from our communications campaigns to merchandising our stores, to figuring out how to use technology to include the conversion rate and satisfaction of our digital properties, and everything in between. With that reality, about the future, that’s putting a lot of pressure on marketers because you really need to be good at a lot of things,” he says.

“The role of marketing is more important than ever because it touches every aspect of the business, at least in the case of Verizon,” he says, adding that at the brand there is an intersection between the more traditional areas of advertising like product positioning and communications along with newer areas such as experience, product and data.

A campaign that combines the strengths of what Verizon can do is its ‘Humanability’ campaign, which is focused on the idea that creating connections can turn innovative ideas into reality. As a brand positioning, Verizon believes 'Humanability' articulates what it stands for and where it’s going – bringing to life the promise of a digital world.

Quantum leap

In the immediate future, Verizon is looking forward with 5G clearly a focus. It's poised to roll out two 5G-enabled smartphones this year and Scotti sees the launch as an “incredible opportunity” and a “quantum leap" within tech that hass the power to enabe things that "until recently were science fiction".

He adds: "This is the first time when you think about everything like IoT, self-driving cars, remote surgery, stuff like that that now is going to happen. Ultimately, the role of technology and helping people do more and change society, that’s what 5G gives us at Verizon."

“As a marketer for the industry, I can’t think of a better time to be in marketing," he continues. "I know that things are complex, because we live in a complex world, but at the same time we have more tools, more technology and more access to new ways of marketing and telling stories than ever before.”

You can keep up with The Drum's 'marketer of the future' coverage here.

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