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Many US companies, including CTV and video ad platform Innovid, strengthened their commitments to DEI over the past two years.
There’s been “a ton of conversation” about diversity, equity and inclusion-related issues, said Stephanie Geno, CMO of Innovid.
“But we’re finally starting to see conversation turn to action,” Geno said.
In 2020, Innovid established a DEI Task Force, a committee of about 20 volunteer employees who lead the company’s DEI efforts across departments.
Although there’s still a long way to go, Geno said she’s heartened that awareness is giving way to action. “As long as we’re continuing to acknowledge that there’s a disparity that exists – and we’re continuing to have that discussion and learn – ultimately, as an industry, we will get to a better place,” she said.
Geno spoke with AdExchanger.
AdExchanger: Where does the ad industry’s lack of DEI come from?
STEPHANIE GENO: It’s very much a relationship-oriented industry. From referrals to recruiting in-network, it’s quite hard to break in.
And because this industry historically has over-indexed toward white males, especially at the executive level, that relationship-first approach discounts people who come from diverse backgrounds. They don’t have the advantage of connections and inroads.
How does representation fit into the picture?
It’s mission critical. DEI is more than just putting a diverse pool of candidates in front of the hiring team – the content and the ads in market need to be representative, too.
The reality is, a lot of Americans still live in segregated communities. That means for a large number of people, their only exposure to people of color is often through their TV or computer screens. As advertisers, we have an obligation to make sure we’re representing diverse talent in a realistic and authentic way.
What is Innovid’s DEI approach?
We start early in the process. We partner with different institutions and programs [such as The Boyd Initiative] that are designed for underrepresented college students. And last year, we introduced a paid internship program. Students shouldn’t be kept from real-world experience just because they can’t afford to take an unpaid internship. Innovid has a mentorship program, too.
But it’s also about representation. Through forums, panels, thought leaders and speakers, we make sure to showcase our diverse talent to show young women and men trying to make a name for themselves in the space that there is no ceiling.
How do you determine if your DEI efforts are working?
We have OKRs [objectives and key results] for all of our different departments and functions. There’s an old adage, “What gets measured gets done,” and that really rings true here. If we don’t create a degree of accountability, then what are we doing?
The North Star for how we measure the efficacy of our DEI efforts is our annual global engagement survey. We ask a combination of questions to understand to what extent our employees feel they’re working in an inclusive environment. Our last score was 93%.
Are there disparities in progress across the industry?
I’ve seen more progress in entry-level roles than executive-level roles.
There’s still this mentality that we can’t find senior executives that represent diverse communities because the talent isn’t there – and I think that’s misguided. There are a ton of resources and a ton of senior-level diverse candidates out there in market; you just have to make an effort to find them.
What should companies be doing differently?
It’s not just about diversifying staff; it’s also about diversifying how you go about recruiting staff. The onus can’t only be on the candidates themselves.
Yes, candidates need to figure out how to move outside their social circles and get their foot in the door, but organizations need to meet them in the middle.
If companies aren’t seeing diverse candidates coming through, and they’re using the same recruiting channels they’ve always been using, they need to do something differently. You can’t make commitments to DEI without putting in the effort to back up those commitments.
Companies should ask themselves, “How can we make a concerted effort to reach out?” When the effort comes from both sides, more diverse candidates make it down the pipeline.
How is the TVSquared acquisition helping Innovid diversify its business?
Innovid offers ad serving as well as personalization capabilities in over 75 markets. TVSquared has a similar capability – and global footprint – from a measurement perspective. TVSquared gives us the aggregate view so we can layer linear TV into a buy, and it also opens up our measurement capabilities outside of the US by allowing us to work with global partners.
This is a massive expansion of our geographical footprint. We’re going to start seeing more diversification in our client base across all regions and verticals, especially DTC and ecommerce advertisers.
This interview has been edited and condensed.