Power Players 2009

Verizon's John Stratton Is Ad Age's No. 2 Power Player

Still the Top Carrier Thanks to a Reliable Network -- and a Single-Minded Focus on Marketing It

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Last Year
THE POWER: John Stratton was recently appointed marketing chief for Verizon's wireless business following a reorganization that eliminated his former role as the company-wide chief marketing officer. On Mr. Stratton's watch, Verizon has single-mindedly touted the reliability of its network, and its recent "There's a Map for That" commercial is a variation on that theme as it slams AT&T's much publicized network problems and mocks iPhone's "There's an App for That" tagline. (AT&T is the exclusive carrier of the iPhone.)

THE NUMBERS: Verizon is the top U.S. wireless carrier, owning 32% of the market. It leads the industry with the lowest churn, or subscriber turnover rate, registering a 1% churn rate in the second quarter. Verizon is seeing some momentum on the wireline business, adding record numbers of Internet customers using its fiber-optic network in the second quarter. Measured media spending for 2008 was $2.39 billion. Spending for the first half of 2009 was down 3.8% to $1.19 billion

THE KEY LIEUTENANTS: John Harrobin, senior VP-digital media and marketing, looks after many of Verizon's content partnerships and major sponsorships. Joe Saracino, VP-marketing, Verizon Wireless, is deeply versed in the digital area, having served as VP-ecommerce.

THE CHALLENGE: Verizon Wireless has yet to offer a marquee handset with enough star power to stem the loss of customers flocking to the iPhone. It hopes to improve its lot with Droid, its first Android-powered handset, and the Blackberry Storm 2. It's unclear if its tie-up with Google to develop handsets powered by the Google-backed Android software will lead to consumers asking for these phones by name. On the wireline side, Verizon hopes to prove its $23 billion bet on the fiber-optic-service network Fios is going to pay off as it completes its initial deployment next year.

THE AGENCIES: IPG's McCann Erickson is Verizon's agency of record; Zenith Optimedia is media buyer. For its Droid handset campaign, Verizon Wireless circumvented McCann, tapping Dentsu-owned McGarry Bowen, which secured Verizon as its founding client earlier this decade.

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