Verizon, We Need You To Take A Seat

I was scrolling through Twitter the other day when I saw a Verizon ad for their #WeNeedMore campaign. I don’t usually pay attention to Twitter ads, but I saw Karl Anthony Towns was in it, and when the second greatest Timberwolf of all time asks for my attention, I give him my attention. The ad begins with several children talking about what they want to be when they grow up. One kid says he wants to be a soccer player, another says she wants to be a model, and a third says she wants to be a singer. So far, so good I thought. I had similar ambitions as an elementary schooler.

The rest of the ad shows Drew Brees, Karl Anthony Towns, David Villa, and Adriana Lima telling us “we don’t need more Drews”, “we don’t need more Adrianas”, and “we don’t need more Karl Anthonys”, as statistics about how few professional athletes, musicians, and models there are in the United States flash across the screen. Verizon’s angle is that there are currently four million available science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs in the US. Therefore, kids should give up on their unrealistic dreams of becoming athletes, musicians, or models to pursue these lucrative, abundant careers. The ad is part of Verizon’s Innovative Learning initiative, to which they have committed $160 million in free tech, free access and hands-on immersive learning in STEM for students in need.


I’m all for encouraging young people to get involved in science, technology, engineering, and math; it's a necessary and noble thing to do. There are many good reasons to commit $160 million to making it easier for low-income kids, girls, and kids of color to get into these fields, but the fact that kids want to play sports, make music, and be creative is not on that list. One of the most important things we can do for kids is encourage them to follow their dreams and do something they are passionate about. According to Verizon, dreams of a career in the arts or athletics are silly, unrealistic, and not worth pursuing. Who made this commercial for you? Who directed, shot, edited the video? Who did the hair, makeup, and styling? Who wrote, produced, recorded, and mixed the music? I’m willing to bet it’s a bunch of kids who dreamed about careers in the arts.

I’d like to offer a few counterpoint to Verizon’s debatable and misleading statistics about employment.

  1. In 2013, the production of arts and cultural goods added more than $704 billion to the U.S. economy. This amounts to 4.23% of GDP. The arts and cultural sector contribute more to the national economy than do the construction, agriculture, mining, utilities, and travel and tourism sectors. (National Endowment for the Arts)

  2. America's nonprofit arts industry generates $135.2 billion in economic activity every year, resulting in $22.3 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues. (Americans for the Arts)

  3. For every arts job created in America in 2012, an additional 1.62 positions outside of the arts were created as a result. (National Endowment for the Arts)

There’s enough stigma about pursuing creative careers, let’s not let a cell phone company mislead kids any further. There is no greater reward than making a career out of something you truly love doing. Even if the arts or sports don’t end up being your full-time job, there’s a lot more to life than having a job, and the skills you learn by being a self-motivated, ambitious, entrepreneurial person will translate to any career. Plus, what’s wrong with being creative, expressing your self, having fun, and staying fit?

P.S. I love you Karl, but...