Diversity advocate Jeffrey Bustos shares his journey from Colombian immigrant to VP of Measurement, Addressability, and Data Center at IAB, driving industry change and championing inclusivity in ad tech.
With his current role as the VP, Measurement, Addressability, and Data Center at IAB, Jeffrey Bustos is now in the position to guide industry-wide change — driving some evolutions in the ad tech ecosystem and championing diversity and inclusion.
Born in Colombia, he moved to Costa Rica to escape the violence in his country. Growing up, he attended an American school in Costa Rica, which proved valuable when he moved to the United States. From Colombia to Costa Rica to eventually landing in sunny-side California, Bustos imagined his life in America would be straight out of a movie. Hollywood portrayals glamourized his initial perception of the U.S.
“I thought I was just going to be surfing all day and living Hollywood’s glamorization of school cliques,” joked Bustos.
Starting second grade in the U.S. was overwhelming, especially since Bustos had difficulties speaking and writing English. However, amidst the challenges, Bustos met Greg, who became his first friend in the United States. He made him feel welcome but also brought joy to his school days.
Eventually, his time in America led him to the ad tech industry, but Bustos’ first dream was to be a writer.
With tunnel vision on becoming a writer and needing to pay rent hanging over his head, Bustos decided he would be a copywriter. In his senior year of college, he taught himself HTML and SEO. Eventually, he got his first job as a copywriter in Miami, but the city that never sleeps was calling out to him, and so was advertising.
“I applied to 421 jobs to get my first advertising job in New York City,” said Bustos.
Breaking into the advertising world was hard back then. He didn’t know about holding companies or the difference between brands and agencies. He especially didn’t know about the ad tech world. But he had a goal in mind and went after it. A trait very reminiscent of American ideologies portrayed in Hollywood. Maybe his life would be more like a film than he thought.
His first job in advertising was working for a small theater agency advertising Broadway shows. He has fond memories of working there, especially with the perks of free Broadway tickets. Yet, theater marketing was not the end of his professional career. The ad tech industry was calling his name and he followed its voice like a siren’s song.
The DEI Advocate: “Lean On Me”
Bustos’ transition into ad tech was transformative, but different from how one would initially think. After working for ad agencies for a while, he started working in data strategy, specifically measurement and data enablement.
It’s not just that ad tech was a completely different world from his previous role, it was also the first time he had a boss who was not white. She was a Dominican woman who was proud of her Latina background.
“She was very much herself at all times, and it encouraged me to be myself,” said Bustos. “She was a Latina woman and the head of data enablement. Her team was very diverse, and she proved that you can lead a data practice at a huge holding company that is diverse.”
Her advocacy reached far beyond performative jargon. She pushed equity alongside inclusion to ensure her team reaped diversity’s benefits. She pushed women and people of color to learn and advance in their careers. Her representation and leadership inspired Bustos to follow that example in his leadership career.
“I think representation is important for marginalized groups and other people,” said Bustos. “Many people’s biases come from simply not knowing or coming in contact with another demographic. Training and investment in DEI initiatives is important to reduce these moments of bias across the industry.”
Being an immigrant often means navigating uncharted territory, with limited knowledge of the myriad career opportunities available. One of Bustos’ driving passions is mentoring the next wave of leaders, guiding them towards opportunities that align with their interests.
“I place great emphasis on connecting them with leaders who mirror their backgrounds, experiences, and challenges. These connections are invaluable, offering both tangible advice and the inspiration derived from seeing someone who looks like you succeed,” said Bustos. “Representation truly matters. When I began my journey, leadership was starkly homogeneous. Today, while there’s been improvement, the journey towards comprehensive diversity is still in its infancy. We must all play our part in paving this road ahead.”
Leading From the Mountaintop: “The King’s Speech”
Now, as the VP, Measurement, Addressability and Data Center at IAB, he is following in the footsteps of his mentor by innovating in ad tech and being the representation he needed at the beginning of his career.
Bustos remembers working remotely in Argentina when the IAB approached him about the job. He did not know he was on their radar, but he jumped at the opportunity to help develop solutions on measurement, addressability and data privacy.
Since then, he has evolved as a one of the thought leaders in retail media, measurement, and data privacy. He is known for his Socratic leadership style, which helped him create an inclusive and collaborative work environment for industry leaders. “IAB has given me an opportunity to demonstrate my expertise and allowed me to meet many people to help move the industry forward with our members,” said Bustos. “In this role, one of my main priorities is to foster diversity.”
For example, the IAB recently hosted a conference, the IAB Connected Commerce Summit: Retail Reimagined, which had one of the most diverse array of speakers. And Bustos is proud of his push to foster diversity and inclusion in this space.
“IAB has been a great vehicle to put forth diverse speakers and leaders. Advocating for diversity doesn’t mean compromising on quality. It means making a concerted effort to ensure equity and create a level playing field. This way, we can spotlight a range of voices and perspectives, ensuring that we truly have the best minds, which come from all backgrounds,” said Bustos.