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Special Project

Special Project
From the 13th Annual Shorty Awards

Pay It Forward LIVE

Winner in Live Streaming Video

Entered in Call to Action


As small businesses endured devastating losses due to COVID-19, Verizon wanted to find a way to help. A leader in small-business technology solutions and a brand deliberately built on connecting people, Verizon needed to mobilize quickly, authentically, compassionately and in a way that tapped into existing equities.

While many advertisers changed logos, Verizon wanted to raise funds for small businesses, but in a way that would spark a little joy in the hearts and minds of an overwrought nation.

Verizon had already donated $2.5MM to the Local Initiatives Support Corporation to support small businesses early on, but we wanted to pay it forward and go beyond a one-time donation. We had to figure out a way to embody that age-old expression so the buck didn’t just stop with Verizon’s donation, but continued with a trickle affect, where others could partake in acts of kindness and call attention to someone else and their small business.

And so Verizon became the FIRST brand to respond on a massive global scale with Pay It Forward Live, a weekly live streaming entertainment series, on March 26th, 2020, with none other than Dave Matthews -- generating 4.3MM views out of the gate!

Strategy and Execution

We had to act quickly and passionately, but without a big budget activation or existing platform to tap in to. Since no platform existed to address these needs, we created our own through the timeless outlet that has united people in times of distress - music - and through a more recent popular pastime – gaming.

We worked in lock step with partners, creative teams and Verizon integrated teams in a way we never have before. To strategically launch the Pay It Forward LIVE platform in just two days, we collectively ideated and made decisions in real-time across calls, texts, and emails in order to:

All of which would prove to be an incredible testament to our deep-rooted relationships with our clients, agencies and partners.

We then set forth to execute a mass awareness integrated plan across video, social, audio, and search, totaling roughly $3.7MM to jump start the series. While we did run into a few challenges along the way, whether it was a last-minute artist cancellation or a complete change in schedule for the week ahead, our close ties to our partners and our knee-deep collaboration across all integrated teams allowed us to pivot when necessary in a quick and efficient manner.

We had the biggest names in music, gaming, and sports – Alicia Keys, Billie Eilish, FaZe Clan, and Saquon Barkley, to name a few – grace the living room stage of homes across the country, sharing their favorite small businesses and encouraging fans to support their own. Fans were encouraged to tag their favorite local small businesses, pledge their support and use #PayItForwardLIVE as they watched the performances on Twitter, Twitch, Yahoo and FiOS channels.

Not only did this provide a boost in morale across the brand, it also showcased Verizon’s deep-rooted identity in corporate social responsibility and how that identity manifested into a pillar of stability and normalcy for consumers each week as they tuned in.


Pay It Forward LIVE achieved significant brand love and affinity for Verizon (100% Positive/Neutral sentiment), but more importantly it made a difference. Over the course of the series, Verizon unlocked an additional $5MM in donations as viewers tagged their favorite local businesses, pledged their support and used #PayItForwardLIVE during the streams – resulting in Verizon’s total donation of $7MM. Businesses were also prompted to ask for the help they needed with 77K SMB LISC registrations and 251K SMB grant applications to date.

We garnered 53K total cumulative clicks to support small businesses from the Pay It Forward microsite – with 521 gift cards purchased from Square totaling $19K – revenue these small businesses otherwise would have never had.  We even saw that viewers were 14% more likely to support small businesses on their own after watching a Pay It Forward LIVE performance.

So, how did this also translate to campaign success? From star-studded talent to an engaging platform, Pay It Forward LIVE delivered massive business results!


Entrant Company / Organization Name

Zenith, RGA, Verizon