In a Philadelphia storefront, graphic artist Addye Joy Durant conducts her business for all to see. The African-American entrepreneur calls on her Verizon Communications Inc.-powered phone and surfs the Web on her computer via the telco’s digital subscriber line service.
Durant is the initial participant in “Dream254: The Verizon Incubator.” In exchange for living in the public eye for three weeks, the businesswoman will receive $10,000 to help build her nascent, home-based business.
Her profile is raised, too, as she’s working downtown, in the windows of 254 South St. The campaign is part of a multicultural marketing effort by Verizon.
The grassroots campaign — which seems part performance art and part The Apprentice — is designed to attract a niche that the telco identified through research: the entrepreneurial African-American.
The incubator is part of a larger multicultural campaign, “Realize,” which launched in August in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. It includes ads in which the telco’s customers explain how broadband technology has helped them realize their dreams of starting businesses or strengthening their communities.
Verizon vice president of marketing and brand management Jerri DeVard said statistics show that 69% of the African-American population is more likely to start their own business. Among the general population, only 46% of Americans say they’d like to be their own boss.
This campaign will publicly demonstrate how aspiring business people can act on their dreams with communications tools from Verizon.
The company has done traditional advertising but “more and more, we’re trying to expand out methodologies for promoting broadband with Verizon,” DeVard said.
The concept appears popular: More than 100 people answered an open casting call to spend three weeks in the store window. (Durant entered the window on Oct. 25 and will be there until Nov. 15.)
In addition to $10,000 in the prize money for earning the right to participate in the campaign, Durant has the opportunity to win incremental prizes by executing challenges presented to her by her “Realize Taskmaster,” who is Clint Arnold, a Verizon executive involved with retail markets.
Helping her rise to the challenge is Bill Campbell, president of CampbellQuest Ltd., a Chicago-based consulting, coaching and communications firm.
To ensure that Durant had the “right stuff” to be the public face of Verizon for this campaign, the businesswoman was subjected to a background check and emotional and physical health examinations, DeVard said.
Burrell Communications Inc. of Chicago designed the campaign, which has been active in pursuing traditional (radio, print) and nontraditional (blogging) marketing techniques.
“We’ve discovered, through consumer talks, this whole spirit of entrepreneurship, the dream of owning and running a business. We wanted to play in that field,” said McGhee Williams Osse, co-CEO of Burrell. “We thought this could be totally different, something that’s never been done in this market.”
Downtown Philadelphia was chosen for many reasons, including its African-American population level and the availability of Verizon employees to help with the project.
It has good market penetration potential: 96% of Verizon’s phone lines are DSL-capable throughout the city, Verizon officials said. They did not state the current DSL penetration.
Verizon and the agency conducted pre-campaign brand-awareness surveys and sales statistics. These will be repeated after the “incubator” is done to judge the effectiveness of the campaign.
“I think this campaign really appeals to everyone. We’re all into voyeurism. We just made [the incubator] more targeted by where we placed it,” DeVard said.
If the campaign is successful, it could be replicated elsewhere.
Meanwhile, the “Realize” campaign will add a new faces to its traditional advertising this week (Nov. 7). Music producer and composer Bill Jolly will describe how he uses Verizon Broadband to connect with his band, while broadcast researcher Anton Moore will explain how he uses a high-speed Internet connection to find information on hip-hop, its artists and on current events.