In the late 1970s, Randall Rothenberg’s first post-college editorial role was writing was for The Nation. Now president and CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, he recalls that “the Nation introduced an internship program and all the interns were white and had upper middle class/upper class backgrounds.” Ten years later, while covering media and advertising at The New York Times, Randall observed the same reality across the industry. “It always rankled me and I saw it everywhere," he says. "The young people who were getting internships -- and remember, internships in media and advertising became your first job credential -- were typically from well-do-do families. Who else could afford to work for free? For decades, this reality kept getting worse. If the only people who can afford to get credentials are wealthy white kids, then the media will reflect that same perspective and not reflect the way the country is advancing and expanding.”
Through his leadership of the IAB, Rothenberg (pictured below) has focused on assuring that the digital media and marketing industry offers opportunities for a wide spectrum of people. Through its iDiverse initiative, the IAB Education Foundation provides a course in digital media, marketing and ad operations for diverse, underrepresented, qualified constituencies in the digital industry, which he describes as “the fastest growing industry in the U.S. and probably the world.” From there, iDiverse aims to match graduates of the program with IAB member companies, as well as brands, retailers and others in the marketing-media ecosystem, and place them in exciting digital careers.
Rothenberg, the IAB Education Foundation and iDiverse will be inducted into the Diversity Hall of Honors at the inaugural Advancing Diversity Honors event held during CES on January 10 from 4 to 8 p.m. at Caesars Palace. Also being honored are Unilever and Aline Santos, IPG and Michael Roth, EY for its neurodiversity program, Nielsen and its Chief Diversity Officer Angela Talton, Kay Koplovitz, the Advertising Council and its President, Lisa Sherman, as well as CrowdfundingRoadmap. Event details and tickets are available at advancingdiversity.org and CES18.com.
"iDiverse provides a foundational set of knowledge to transition a diverse set of people into roles in digital marketing, roles that are being created by every brand and retailer,” Rothenberg explains. “Through our relationships with community colleges and other teaching environments, we can deliver the candidates our industry and the rest of world need, so their staffs reflect the diversity of their consumers.”
The iDiverse program emerged from the IAB’s existing certification programs and the realization that there was a greater demand for than supply of qualified, diverse candidates. “What’s the biggest reason employers in our universe of brands, retailers, marketers, agencies and publishers gave us for not hiring diverse people to fill their jobs? It was a lack of qualified candidates!" Rothenberg says. "We had a brainstorm moment: through our existing IAB Certification program, we had a qualifying credential. We have the badge for the cowardly lion, the diploma for the scarecrow. Why not take this underpinning and find a way to provide credentials to a spectrum of people from diverse backgrounds?”
Implementing the program wasn’t as easy as he hoped, Rothenberg admits. Since iDiverse is an accreditation program offering college credits, for example, “we needed to go through hoops to design, adapt tests and assure that the scoring system and curves are honest. We couldn’t just take our existing tests and adapt them. We needed to create a new and separate program.”
Megan Hauck (pictured below), Director of the IAB Education Foundation, joined in 2016 from NBCU to lead an implementation team that created a pilot relationship with the College of San Mateo that led to a graduation of 24 candidates. That relationship has been extended to the Borough of Manhattan Community College and has now graduated a total of 68 graduates with expansion underway to additional community colleges and educational programs. Hauck advises that she and her team are working with influential IAB members such as Oath and Microsoft, non-profits including the Kapor Center for Social Impact, and the IAB Education Foundation has applied for grants for additional funding. “About fifty-percent of our graduates entered the program with jobs in a different industry or have found employment post-program, though most are still interviewing,” she reports. “iDiverse is instrumental to what our industry will look like in the future. We want to scale our program to offer certification to many, many more people and bring a positive change for the short and long term.”
“Fundamentally, we have a challenge because the tech industry in Silicon Valley tends to think of diversity with a narrow focus on engineering," Rothenberg adds. "But there will be millions of digital marketing related jobs in sales, biz dev, creativity, marketing, data and analytics. That’s what iDiverse is focused on: the 70-80 percent of the workforce who are not engineers.”
Rothenberg points to IAB Education Foundation Board Chair and Oath CEO Tim Armstrong and IABEF Board Member and General Manager of Advertising Operations at Microsoft Jennifer Creegan, as having been instrumental to the success of iDiverse. “Tim’s passion for diversity is real and not window dressing,” he says. “He shows up at every iDiverse bi-weekly update meeting and he’s personally developed many of our best ideas. He went to Sun Valley to recruit other leaders onto the iDiverse board. And he’s assigned three of his top team members to work with us.”
Hauck adds that Microsoft is “a great partner and leader, and Jennifer and her team have been instrumental in helping develop a mentorship program that will be launched in 2018.”
“We really want to bring the industry together as the convener, to be sure that our program has a positive impact and that we bolster programs like ours that are already taking place at member companies so we can be as culturally diverse as society within our industry," she continues. "Our emphasis is on inclusion, on making everyone feel comfortable and safe, and to assure everyone who wants an opportunity will have one.”
Concludes Rothenberg, “Students want access to our industry, and what better way to learn and be prepared than a high-quality certification program?”
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