Will Ferguson went to college in the post-9/11 world, a time defined by the Global War on Terror. When it came time to choose where to study, his experience living in New York during 9/11 compelled him to join the military. Thinking of a future in advertising, he studied business through the Army ROTC program at Fordham University.
Graduating in 2011 and commissioning as a second lieutenant in the Army, he would soon find himself in Afghanistan, leading soldiers in logistical operations. Even as he worked this new career of a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) officer, he knew his future was in advertising. It was something he always wanted to do. While serving in the National Guard, he began working at iProspect, dentsu’s global digital-first end-to-end media agency, in 2016.
“My company was always very supportive of my commitments to the National Guard,” Ferguson said. “It’s incredibly important for companies to back up their veterans, and when you have a company that celebrates service in this way, it brings people together.”
Ferguson left the Guard in 2019, but has worked at dentsu ever since. Today, he is SVP, Managing Director of Addressable Solutions for dentsu Media. He now wants to help create opportunities for other veterans to enter the advertising industry, so dentsu is teaming up with the global advertising technology company Quantcast and its certification platform Quantcast Academy to provide that opportunity.
Quantcast Academy is offering its graduates an opportunity to participate in a full-time position in media at dentsu through its “The Media Experience” apprenticeship program. The goal is to remove barriers to entering the media and advertising industry for diverse groups of talent who may not have industry training or experience.
“Being a veteran isn’t something you wear on your sleeve,” Ferguson said. “It’s an invisible diversity characteristic. The industry as a whole offers flexibility, diversity in roles, and within larger organizations, there are opportunities to grow into different jobs, do different things and flex different muscles.”
Studies show veterans’ abilities to adapt their skills and training to different tasks and contexts in an ever-changing environment is part of the reason employers find them so attractive as employees. They are also accustomed to structure and working as part of a team. Working in the media and advertising world is a prime opportunity for vets with these innate abilities.
“Advertising might not be the most common industry that comes to mind for veterans getting out of the service,” Ferguson said, “but it presents so much opportunity. There is a great intersection of structure in organization and numerous roles and functions someone can get into.”
Rachel Polish is a Senior Account Executive at Quantcast. She’s also a Master Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve, the most senior enlisted rank. She joined the Coast Guard in 2001, because she found the service’s dual role as both a branch of the military and an arm of the Department of Transportation compelling. In 2003, the Coast Guard moved into the newly-formed Department of Homeland Security, which gives the service unique missions.
“Coast Guardsmen have opportunities to work in roles like law enforcement, environmental protection, or humanitarian missions on a global level,” Polish said. “I have truly served as a witness to history and seen places and people that I never imagined could be possible. The Coast Guard instilled qualities in me like resiliency, adaptability, and a steadfast commitment to the public I serve.”
Polish brought the experience from her existing career in marketing and communications to the Coast Guard. She became a Public Affairs Specialist in the weeks following the September 11 attacks with a desire to bring her established civilian communications and crisis management skills to the service of her country, but the Coast Guard still brought valuable experiences that translated into her civilian career.
“I serve as a strategic partner to marketers across multiple organizations to understand their needs and execute on their goals,” Polish explained. “I am passionate about supporting my clients in the most strategic, responsive, and empathetic way, as the demands for their time and mindshare are high.”
The unique experience of serving as a skilled marketer and communicator in the Coast Guard and continuing her role as a digital client partner and strategist gives Polish insight into the value veterans can bring to the media world. Military discipline and a service-minded focus are highly-respected traits for people in the industry.
“Many of the skills one develops while serving in the military are qualities that most employers actively seek in their employees,” Polish said. “To be successful in the military, you’re dependent on a larger team around you to get the job done, including in life or death situations. There cannot be a weak link in the chain if a mission is going to be successful.”
Today, Ferguson and Polish remain active in the veteran community. Both are committed to helping vets find their footing in the civilian world as they transition out of the military. Dentsu’s The Media Experience apprenticeship program illuminates opportunities to join the corporate world with a job in media which, although was always their chosen career paths, might not be top of mind for all veterans.
The eight-week program provides hands-on training and onboarding into full-time roles including media planning, paid search, investment and programmatic advertising on existing client teams.
“I’m proud to see the industry come together to create a path for service members to identify careers in advertising as a viable post-service option,” Ferguson said. “With The Media Experience program, dentsu is leading the way to get in front of talented people who will be able to build meaningful and fulfilling careers in media without requiring prior formalized training.”
Polish understands what giving the kind of training and exposure to the latest and greatest in media technology that Quantcast provides can mean for veterans entering the industry at any level.
“Quantcast is an advertising technology company and creator of an innovative intelligent audience platform that empowers brands, agencies and publishers to know and grow their audiences online,” Polish shared. “Our solutions are leveling the playing field for our customers when it comes to effectively reaching audiences online. We have built one of the world’s largest, living data sets and we use it to bring unparalleled relevance to online advertising.”
The Quantcast Academy is the first step for veterans looking to enter the data-driven world of media. It’s a free certification program that provides online learning modules and a full certification program for individuals to understand the language, tools, and processes of the digital advertising ecosystem, including concepts such as CTV, data privacy, identity and how artificial intelligence works and its increasingly integral role in marketing strategy.
In addition to military veterans, the program is open to talent with various different backgrounds including parents re-entering the workforce, those in other industries looking to pivot to media, recent college graduates, and those without college degrees.
To start training towards certification now and to view positions available at dentsu, or for more information on Quantcast Academy, visit: https://www.quantcast.com/dentsu-for-veterans/.