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Biggest-ever marketing push aims to make Akamai a household name

Monique Bonner, Akamai’s chief marketing officerChris Morris for The Boston Globe

Travelers who pass through Logan Airport might spot something they haven’t seen before: Akamai Technologies billboards.

Akamai’s marketing efforts have generally been low-key. The Cambridge-based company doesn’t sell directly to consumers; it’s best known for its high-tech digital delivery system used by media companies to move movies, songs, and other content around the world.

But Monique Bonner, Akamai’s chief marketing officer, is mixing things up a bit this year. She is working with ad giant VMLY&R to promote Akamai’s corporate cybersecurity business. It’s not as well-known as Akamai’s content delivery and performance work, but it’s fast growing, destined to represent nearly a third of Akamai’s revenue next year. Bonner (below) wants to accelerate things even further.


The ads, which are also appearing on security trade publication sites and on social media, feature actual software code in the background — not enough to launch a cyberattack, but enough so those in the know will appreciate the details.

Akamai plans to spend about $17 million on the campaign this year, making it the largest marketing push in the company’s roughly 20 years in business.

Aside from all the Logan signs, the Boston-focused portion of the campaign includes drive-time radio spots on WBUR and WGBH as well as ads on Captivate elevator screens.

A “full takeover” of South Station is planned for June.

Bonner says the Boston emphasis partly grew out of company executives learning that public awareness of Akamai’s security business was no greater here than in any other market.

“We sort of assumed, we’re in Boston, our security awareness must be high,” Bonner says. “We’re the largest cybersecurity company in Massachusetts [but] the results were really no different in Boston.”

One other reason for the airport ads: There will be seven high-profile cybersecurity conferences in Boston this year, with many potential clients wandering through Logan. And then there’s the added advantage of boosting employee morale. Workers, she says, get a kick out of seeing the company’s name up in lights.


“We’ve heard from employees that their kids think they’re cool now,” Bonner says. — JON CHESTO

Winning and woke

Colette Phillips got some flack five years ago when she doled out awards to white power brokers in Boston who help with diversity efforts, designating them “white men who can jump.”

She argued that to make progress on diversity you need white men at the table. After all, they still run much of the city.

Now, the PR maven is honoring white women who push the issue, and the envelope, with her “Women Who Walk the Talk” event on Tuesday. More than 150 people are expected at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum for the event.

The 30 honorees — described by Phillips, who is black, as “woke white women” — were picked by a selection committee consisting of a number of prominent Bostonians.

The committee intentionally drew from a wide variety of sectors to find its honorees: academia, government, health care, financial services, media, philanthropy. Some are well known: US Senator Elizabeth Warren, for example, or Attorney General Maura Healey.

But others don’t typically make headlines. They include people like Nancy Huntington Stager, who leads a business equity effort at Eastern Bank, or Gensler creative director Denise Korn, who founded a summer jobs program for urban high school students called Youth Design.

“Rather than talking about the negative things that are happening, why not shine a spotlight on the good things that are happening?” Phillips says. “If you’re going to have equity and true inclusion . . . we need everybody fighting this battle.” — JON CHESTO


Change at State6

If there’s a strange reason why Aaron Sells left marketing agency State6 earlier this month, he’s not saying. And neither is Joel Idelson, the marketing executive recruited by Sells to run the company.

Both say Sells, the firm’s founding partner, left to focus on a new venture. Idelson says Sells’s departure was always part of the plan when Idelson became the new CEO, via a succession plan of sorts. The timeframe they were discussing was the start of April, he says. He didn’t provide much detail about why the timeline was accelerated a bit.

“We were talking about this for five months,” Idelson says. “He’s choosing to focus on a few of his other ventures. He’s not able to give the time we need to State6. . . . He was hoping to do his own thing by April 1. He is departing a few weeks earlier.”

Idelson says the firm’s other investors are in the process of buying Sells’s stake in the business.

Sells was coy when asked what his next venture will be. He has been involved with several restaurant businesses, including the Sons of Boston that opened near Faneuil Hall last year. But he says his next project will not be in the hospitality biz.

“I brought Joel in six months ago [because] my full attention and passion . . . from a standpoint of the business was not all there,” Sells says of State6. “It’s time. . . . I started the company. After a few years of doing it, you know it’s not going to jump to the next level by itself.” — JON CHESTO


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