Verizon Is the Latest Client to Demand More Diversity From Its Agencies

By Patrick Coffee 

If we had learned two things at this year’s Advertising Week, they would have been that Facebook is a media company that would rather not be known as such and that ad agencies are under a good bit of pressure to diversify.

Today the New York Times revealed that Verizon has joined HP and General Mills in calling on all of its agencies to hurry up. Earlier this month, Verizon’s EVP/CMO Diego Scotti sent a related letter to 11 of the shops on its roster. From that letter:

“At Verizon, we have the assets to change the world. … our purpose-driven culture gives everyone at Verizon a seat at the table to ideate and work together to solve the world’s biggest challenges.


That’s why I’m reaching out to you today to ask that your company make an important commitment to drastically improve the percentage of women and people of color in leadership roles and continue to support our diverse supplier community by awarding more subcontracting work to diverse businesses.”

He goes on to drop some key data points:

“At Verizon, we take great pride in having a workforce that’s 59% diverse (people of color and women). Worldwide women make up 35.7% of the workforce and in the U.S. people of color represent 40%.

Verizon spent more than $25 billion dollars with diverse businesses and $4.25 billion in 2015 alone. Moreover, Verizon’s board of directors is one of the most diverse boards in the country comprised of 4 women and 5 people of color — from a total of 13 board members.”

Unlike General Mills, Scotti does not list any specific numbers that these agencies must reach. But he does demand a response:

“… my expectation is that in the next 30 days you will share your current state of workforce broken out by number of women (by ethnicity) and people of color in your different levels, including senior leadership. Moreover, please provide your action plans that describe how you are growing workforce and supplier diversity.”

We think it fair to note that, while self-described “leading source of information on diversity management” Diversity Inc. lists General Mills as number 40 on its list of the 50 most diverse companies, Verizon does not appear on the list. Neither does HP.

Here’s a link to Verizon’s leadership team and here is a link to its Board of Directors, which does indeed include several women and people of color.

General Mills chief creative officer Michael Fanuele, who formerly worked in planning and strategy for Fallon, JWT and Havas, also had some words to share at this week’s events.

Of his own company’s call for diversity, he said, “It wasn’t some sort of moral high-horse stance about the failing ad industry.” Regarding agency efforts on that front, he continued:

“Some show up with all the right people around the table and it almost does feel like a quota of tokenism; it’s like ‘Oh, thank you. You found the, you know, Southeast Asian transgender woman who works somewhere in your network to come to our meeting to talk.’ And then other times it just looks beautiful and diverse and it’s very genuine and real…”

Sounds about right.