Verizon Campaign "Love Calls Back" is an ANA Award Winner

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Cover image for  article: Verizon Campaign "Love Calls Back" is an ANA Award Winner

Winners of the ANA's 20th annual Multicultural Excellence Awards competition were recently announced. There were 300 entries across thirteen categories. The very top prize – the "Best in Show" – was awarded to Verizon and its agency McCann Worldgroup for the campaign "Love Calls Back." The campaign features members of the LGBTQ+ community reconnecting — and reconciling — in telephone calls with family members who originally rejected their sexual identity. ANA's Group Executive Vice President Bill Duggan sat down with Verizon's Senior Vice President, Chief Creative Officer Andrew McKechnie to discuss the work.

Bill Duggan, ANA: Your strategic breakthrough was "reconnecting people" – how did your team reach that aha moment?

Andrew McKechnie, Verizon: In 2018, our Pride campaign was an emotional and celebratory journey featuring young adults coming out to their parents. In 2019, with "Love Calls Back," we continued with that theme, but wanted to show both sides. In reality, not all of these life-changing calls go as planned. It's still a difficult task for the person coming out and equally difficult for the family member to find the right words in the moment. We really wanted to show the connection that is forged when people are offered a second chance to try again.

Duggan: What were some of the biggest challenges/obstacles in bringing this effort to life?

McKechnie: Partnering with PFLAG National, we found families who wanted another opportunity to redo this difficult conversation. It was a delicate balance of making sure both sides were open to the experience and ready to make this extremely personal moment public.

Duggan: This work was done on a fairly low budget. Please discuss that.

McKechnie (pictured right): We don't take a one-size fits all approach and develop each campaign strategy as a unique entity. This campaign led on social and digital with a very small TV presence. We need to reach intended audiences where they're active - that's the only way we'll have the most impact.

Duggan: Tell us about the diversity of the client and agency teams who worked on this initiative.

McKechnie: The agency and brand teams behind the campaign were a diverse group of men and women in both the LGBTQ+ and Ally communities. It was important to bring together a team made up of unique perspectives and experiences – including individuals who understood the difficulty (and sometimes, the heartbreak) of coming out to families and friends. Furthermore, we purposely engaged Lee Hirsch, director of the award-winning documentary Bully, to help us document these very personal stories. He has built a career telling stories like this and is a long-term advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. His direction brought a level of empathy and understanding to the work, and the trust he built with the film's participants made it easier for them to have these difficult conversations with their loved ones.

Duggan: What's next? How is Verizon remaining relevant/supportive to the LGBTQ+ community?

McKechnie: In October 2020, Verizon pledged another $250,000 in support of PFLAG, the nation's first and largest organization for the parents, families, and allies of the LGBTQ+ community, which brought total support of PFLAG to $750,000 over the last three years. We'll continue our partnership with PFLAG to help expand communications, chapter developments and support network. Verizon also has the LGBTQ+ employee resource group, Prism, that we work with to amplify the LGBTQ+ voice within the Verizon community and beyond.

Duggan: What would you say are the critical factors marketers need to keep top of mind when engaging with diverse consumers?

McKechnie: A critical factor is making sure to approach all campaigns with authenticity. We have to engage and create trust - consumers will see right through a brand that is inauthentic.

The ANA Multicultural Excellence Awards recognize client-side marketers and their agency or media partners who produced multicultural advertising campaigns between June 2019 and June 2020. See the "Love Calls Back" work from Verizon and McCann World Group here.

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