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Jerri DeVard

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Verizon has teetered on the edge of a merger with MCI Inc. for most of the year and, while not yet final, will likely close the deal to buy the Internet and backend business provider later this year or early in 2006.

For Jerri DeVard, senior VP-marketing communications and brand management, that may mean the biggest business marketing challenges lie ahead. Still, the intense competition in the telecommunications industry also means there is never a dull year. In 2005, she pushed the innovation of Verizon technology as a way to boost the company's brand across its three business units: wireless, broadband and information services.

Advertising included the "Our People. Our Network." multimedia campaign to highlight real employees who symbolize Verizon's dedication to building and maintaining a powerful network. A broader corporate campaign begun in June called "Richer. Deeper. Broader." touted Verizon's broadband capabilities in helping both consumers and businesses. A Web site (www.richerdeeperbroader.com) offers bloggerlike case study stories in users' own words of how broadband enriched their lives. The site is a bit of a media experiment in offering a forum or blog without expectation of referring to the sponsor brand. For instance, an entry by Craigslist founder Craig Newmark talks about his broadband problems and their solution but never mentions Verizon by name.

"The needs stay the same; technology raises the expectations of a brand's ability to deliver. Stay true to what your brands mean to your customers," DeVard told Association of National Advertisers CEO Bob Liodice in an interview before the annual ANA conference in September.

As for the future, a combined Verizon/MCI would mean a big-business play, which also means big-business marketing challenges. According to a Verizon press release published in early October after MCI shareholders approved the deal, the merger would allow "Verizon to better compete for and serve large-business and government customers with a full range of services, including wireless and sophisticated Internet Protocol-based services."

DeVard joined Verizon from Citigroup, where she was chief marketing officer. Before Citigroup, she was VP-marketing for color cosmetics at Revlon, and before that was VP of marketing for Harrah's Entertainment in New Orleans.

-Beth Snyder Bulik

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