Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Digital Hero: Shez Iqbal, Director of Publisher Partnerships, Criteo 

Shez Iqbal is Director of Publisher Partnerships, Criteo. He has over 17 years’ industry experience, with previous roles at companies including News International, Liveintent and Oubrain. He is also currently a Role Model at Media For All [MEFA], an initiative to encourage more BAME talent into media and to provide a support and mentoring network to ensure BAME talent flourishes in the media industry.

Who is your digital hero?  

Naren Patel, CEO Co-Founder at Geoprove Limited and Founder of Media For All. 

What has he done to win hero status in your eyes?  

In September 2017, Naren founded Media For All (MEFA), to help recruit more people of colour (POC) into media and to provide a support and mentoring network to ensure that POC talent flourishes in the industry.  

The MEFA network has brought together talent from across media, not just digital, and used its collective voice to drive a change within the industry.  

How has his heroism helped drive digital?  

Whilst Naren spent most of his career in out-of-home advertising, the creation of the MEFA network, has made him a hero across the media landscape. For me personally, it’s given me access to like-minded individuals within digital, allowing us to compare notes and innovate,  as well as share our DEI experiences.  . 

Through the network Naren helped build, POC within media are being mentored from a grassroots level, supporting diversity and changing the look and feel of the industry in what I’m sure will be a positive way. 

What are the biggest challenges in digital we need another hero to solve?  

We’ve clearly got an issue with diversity within the industry and it’s something I’m very passionate about. A number of organisations are helping us solve the issues that need addressing. MEFA, TWIPN, Bloom, BFS and Coaches of Colour (among others) are great organisations, which we as an industry should all get behind and support.  

Outside of diversity, so much is changing in world of publishing with retailers like ASDA and delivery marketplaces like Deliveroo now operating as media owners; even Netflix is shifting towards an ad-supported offering. This is happening at a time when established publishers still face challenges in educating buyers and advertisers about how to navigate the current complexities involved in buying their portfolio.  

As the media world continues to grow and diversify, more heroes are certainly needed to help this new crop of media owners work seamlessly with advertising partners and monetise anywhere consumers choose to spend their time. 

What is your most heroic personal achievement so far in digital? 

I’m really proud of some of the mentoring and coaching work I’ve done with MOSAIC (part of the Prince’s Trust), BFS and The Boyd Initiative in the US. It was great to see young people shift in their seats and really open their eyes to the opportunities. The reality is, POC don’t always have the same opportunities as their peers because of their environments and lived experiences. Mentoring and coaching really helps accelerate the growth of individuals and you can’t help but find the energy and optimism refreshing. 

One of the initiatives I’m most proud of contributing to is the All In Campaign with the Advertising Association. The census itself was impressive with over 16,000 responses – the largest survey response ever recorded within Media. The census reported that Black and Asian communities within our industry were experiencing the most amount of discrimination, 22% Black and 15% Asian, Vs 3% overall. 32% Black and 27% Asian respondents, said they were likely to leave the industry due to a lack of inclusion.  

As a member of the working group, tasked with working out what actions needed to be taken by our industry, to answer the needs of Asians, I came up with the tag line, “Be curious”. I think it’s important for us to have a conversation with our talent, meet them where they are, support their growth and keep them within our industry. 

It was a powerful working group with some great perspectives.  Alongside internal conversations, I was lucky enough to contribute to  the Advertising Association’s ‘All In Action Plan’ launch and a MEFA webinar, focussing on South Asian heritage. There is an element of courage which pushes me to share my lived experience and perspectives , but more than anything it’s my passion to see change.