Verizon Names New CMO

Mike Ritter Will Replace Marilyn O'Connell, Who Is Retiring After 24 Years

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SAN FRANCISCO ( -- Verizon Telecom has named a replacement for Marilyn O'Connell, the group's chief marketing officer, who helped launch Fios and is retiring after 24 years.

Mike Ritter, who oversees Verizon Wireless' marketing and sales operations in the Midwest, will assume the post Jan. 1, according to an internal memo. Mr. Ritter will lead national marketing and product development for Verizon's voice, broadband and video portfolio, among other charges.

O'Connell led rollout of Fios
Ms. O'Connell came up through the ranks from GTE, which was acquired by Verizon earlier this decade. She gained visibility in leading the rollout of Verizon's fiber-optic cable service, Fios, which delivers broadband, voice and video, one of the telecom operator's biggest service launches.

A company spokesman said he expects Mr. Ritter to make some changes as he takes the helm as the group's marketing chief but ruled out any significant shifts. Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann Erickson, New York, is Verizon's agency.

Mr. Ritter will not report to John Stratton, exec VP-chief marketing officer for Verizon Communications, though a spokesman said Mr. Ritter inevitably will take some cues from Mr. Stratton since he sets the overall marketing strategy for the company.

Big battle shaping up
Mr. Ritter will face challenges in marketing Verizon's Fios service, as a big battle is shaping up among the telcos against cable companies such as Comcast and Cox, which also offer bundled services for voice, video and internet. At the end of last quarter, Verizon had 1.6 million Fios TV subscribers and 2.2 million Fios internet subscribers.

Broadband marketing will be key, considering that the company is projected to spend nearly $23 billion by the end of the decade to build out and deliver its fiber-optic network. Currently 33 million households in 25 states and D.C. subscribe to some kind of land-line service offered by Verizon.

Verizon Communications is the country's third-biggest advertiser, after Procter & Gamble and AT&T, with total ad spending in 2007 estimated at just over $3 billion.

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