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Why Digital Media Certification Matters

Why Digital Media Certification Matters

Digital media is an incredibly fast-moving space, where new platforms, ad formats, and job responsibilities crop up with each passing quarter. Though this constant evolution makes the industry an exciting place to work, it can also be a source of great frustration for professionals attempting to stay up to date with products and practices that may not have existed even three months prior. Even worse, this technological acceleration can cause confusion in the marketplace, making it difficult for brands and agencies to understand digital well enough to feel comfortable investing in it.

As part of its ongoing efforts to demystify online advertising for publishers, agencies, and brand marketers, IAB launched its first Digital Media Sales Certification program in 2012. By establishing a baseline set of knowledge for digital sales professionals, the program created a shared language that certified salespeople could use to communicate clearly with their clients and colleagues. This way, if a media buyer were to ask a salesperson whether a given piece of inventory was compliant with IAB Digital Video Ad Serving Template (VAST) or available for mobile distribution, the salesperson could answer with confidence, accuracy, and clarity.

With so many new people coming to digital from traditional media departments in the early days, the quality control brought by IAB Certification quickly became instrumental in building trust with advertisers.

“It was very hard for buyers to evaluate whether the person they were talking to actually knew their stuff,” said IAB Senior Vice President Michael Theodore, who also serves as General Manager of the IAB Education Foundation. “We want to remove as many impediments as possible from agencies and marketers putting more money into digital, so we felt it was important to establish certain standards so that somebody with a credential represented the very best in our industry.”

Over the past four years, nearly 10,000 industry professionals have participated in IAB Certification, which today includes three additional programs for Digital Data Solutions, Digital Ad Operations, and Digital Media Buying and Planning. Along the way, IAB has earned accreditation for two of its programs from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and helped industry leaders like AOL, NBCUniversal, Time Warner Cable Media, and Condé Nast, maintain competent, educated workforces.

Digital media is changing faster than ever.

For starters, digital advertising is only growing more complex. With the proliferation of new formats like content marketing and the growth of mobile-centric social platforms like Snapchat, it has become increasingly unlikely that any one media professional will have experience working with every ad product on the market. By taking IAB Certification exams, digital professionals will gain a greater understanding of the solutions offered by their competitors, allowing them to speak knowledgeably when advising clients and explaining the relative benefits of their own offerings.

“As the industry is becoming more technically sophisticated and more reliant on technology, it stands to reason that the best advisers are going to be the ones who really understand everything about the new technologies and trends,” Theodore said.

Certification separates qualified job candidates from the rest of the pack.

In fact, many leading firms, from NASCAR to Cox Media Group, use IAB Certification as a measuring stick when evaluating new hires. Since digital media is such a young industry, it can be extremely difficult for companies to find experienced talent, and employers often find themselves settling for an intelligent person with potential rather than a proven commodity. But while a salesperson or data scientist may have found great success working in pharmaceuticals or automotives, only IAB Certification can ensure they have the industry-specific knowledge to flourish in digital media. The certification programs have become a crucial part of both ends of the hiring process, alleviating the ever-present digital media skills gap and allowing qualified professionals to distinguish themselves in the job market.

Certification strengthens the entire digital media industry.

By investing in certification, digital media companies and their employees send a clear message to advertisers that they are well equipped to do a great job. With each new certified professional, the online advertising ecosystem becomes a little more trustworthy and a little more attractive to the brands and agencies that choose to spend money in it. Over time, this smarter, more capable workforce will only bring good things to those who participate in it.

“IAB and its members create standards that help determine how ads are formatted and how they are served.” Theodore said. “The most important standard has to do with people, and that’s why we’ve created and support the certification program. Because those standards built on relationships of trust are the ones that the clients really do care about.”

Learn more about IAB Certification here.