Ad Tech Firms Rocket Fuel, Turn and MediaMath Oppose Immigration Ban

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Randy Wooton, CEO Rocket Fuel
Randy Wooton, CEO Rocket Fuel Credit: Rocket Fuel
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Some of the best known ad tech firms including Rocket Fuel, AdRoll and Turn joined a large collective of mostly tech firms that signed a legal brief stating their opposition to the Trump administration's controversial travel ban on people from a select group of majority Muslim countries. Another ad tech firm, MediaMath, said it opposes the ban though it did not sign the amicus brief supporting a ruling by a federal judge halting the travel ban.

Though the restraining order on the ban gives companies like Rocket Fuel more time to determine how to handle the situation, Rocket Fuel CEO Randy Wooton said, "I don't think this will alleviate the fear and uncertainty of my employees around the world especially those that are Muslim." Mr. Wooton, a 12-year Navy veteran who served on aircraft carriers during Operation Southern Watch in Iraq, continued: "The damage has been doneā€¦. The exisistential ramifications of this are profound for us as individuals and as citizens."

The ban, imposed on January 28 and halted temporarily by a federal judge in Seattle on Feb. 3, prevents people from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Sudan and Somalia from traveling to the U.S. Not only did the firms signing the amicus brief call the ban unconstitutional, they suggested it could influence global firms to build or expand operations overseas.

Rocket Fuel has around 900 employees, some of whom have been affected by the travel ban including one whose wife is from Libya, said Mr. Wooton.

The legal brief was signed by nearly 100 companies, most of them tech firms, many of which recruit from Middle Eastern countries to fill needs in data science and other tech niches that the U.S. workforce cannot fill. "The order makes it more difficult and expensive for U.S. companies to recruit, hire, and retain some of the world's best employees," noted the brief. "It disrupts ongoing business operations. And it threatens companies' ability to attract talent, business, and investment to the United States."

"The ability to hire computer and data scientists in other countries is critical to our future," said Mr. Wooton.

Some of the biggest digital ad sellers signed the February 5 brief, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Snap and Twitter. Smaller yet well known ad tech companies also signed on: AdRoll, AppNexus, BrightRoll, Marin Software, Rocket Fuel and Turn. Niche digital ad sellers including LinkedIn, Reddit and Spotify also signed the brief.

Though it has not signed the amicus brief, digital ad firm MediaMath "strongly opposes the ban," a company spokesman told Ad Age. The travel ban has not prevented any of the company's employees from entering the U.S., however the company said it is keeping a close watch on how it may affect changes to the H1B visas it and countless tech firms rely on to hire employees from overseas.

"We are exploring ways to join some of the other tech companies in our unified mission," wrote MediaMath CEO Joe Zawadzki in an email regarding the immigration ban sent to employees on Thursday. "Tech:NYC has built a strong coalition, along with leaders in Silicon Valley, and we might bring global perspective from the marketing community," he continued, also noting that the company "will continue to support inclusive immigration policies both in the U.S. and abroad."

In addition to stating that the immigration ban "violates the immigration laws and the Constitution," the brief stated:

The Order effects a sudden shift in the rules governing entry into the United States, and is inflicting substantial harm on U.S. companies. It hinders the ability of American companies to attract great talent; increases costs imposed on business; makes it more difficult for American firms to compete in the international marketplace; and gives global enterprises a new, significant incentive to build operations -- and hire new employees -- outside the United States.

Advertising Age asked several large data tech firms to comment regarding the travel ban last week before the restraining order was put in place. All declined to comment except for data giant Acxiom. Though the firm did not state opposition or support of the ban, Terilyn Juarez Monroe, chief people and culture officer and senior VP of HR at Acxiom, told Ad Age in a Jan. 31 email, "President Trump's recent executive order pertaining to immigration does not directly impact Acxiom associates currently."

"Acxiom prides itself being a global organization comprised of associates that come from different cultures, countries and nationalities. We strive to inspire an environment of inclusion and a sense of belonging by recruiting and retaining a culturally-diverse workforce. It is our sincere hope, that this executive order does not hinder our ability in the future to hire talented people from around the world, who help us innovate and serve our clients."