Ad Fellows Launched by Verizon

September 13, 2017

By Bill Duggan

Kate Richards, Adweek; Diego Scotti, Verizon; Gina Grillo, The Advertising Club of New York; Lincoln Stephens, Marcus Graham Project at the Ad Fellows launch event. Bill Duggan


On September 11, I attended the launch event of Ad Fellows, an industry partnership offering participants a client and agency immersion designed to foster the next generation of diverse marketing leaders. Kudos to Verizon for originating this program and to its agency partners for participating.

The idea behind Ad Fellows is part of a broader diversity initiative that kicked off about a year ago when Verizon CMO Diego Scotti sent letters to the company's agencies asking for help in addressing the industry-wide problem of diversity.

Since then, of the more than 200 people hired by Verizon's agencies to work on its business, 41 percent are people of color. Internally, Verizon created an in-house agency over the past year from scratch and now that group consists of 50 percent people of color. Mr. Scotti told Adweek that, "The number one lesson is when you build something from scratch and you put the filter of diversity in it, you can do it."

Ad Fellows is a key part of Verizon's diversity work. Twenty recent college graduates from across the country, all with diverse backgrounds, have been selected to participate in this eight-month fellowship program. At the end of the program, it's hoped that the vast majority of participants will transition to full-time jobs at one of the participating companies.

The Ad Fellows launch event featured a panel moderated by Kate Richards of Adweek with Mr. Scotti, Gina Grillo, president and CEO of The Advertising Club of New York, and Lincoln Stephens, CEO and co-founder of the Marcus Graham Project. The group shared much wisdom, including:

  • Getting new perspective at the table makes things more interesting, leads to change, and can be disruptive in a good way.
  • There needs to be focus on both recruiting and retention. Recruiting is just the first part of the equation. Employers need to optimize conditions so people will stay.
  • Affinity groups are wonderful, but people who are not like-minded need to hear one another's stories too.
  • Unconscious bias should be mandatory training to help us all better see the world.

Mr. Scotti emphatically stated that he wants this program to be considered by other companies, so it will become bigger, and invited industry trade associations ANA and The Advertising Club of New York to participate.

How will success be defined? While Mr. Scotti does not believe in quotas, he "wants to get as close as possible to what our customers look like."

Congratulations to Verizon and agencies McCann, Momentum, Rauxa, Zenith, and Weber Shandwick. Good luck to the 20 Ad Fellows as they embark on their careers.

Hear more from Diego Scotti at the 2017 ANA Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Conference, November 5–7 in Miami, Fla.

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