Blog Series

The Ad Ops Evolution: From Hacking to Here

Chronicling the history of ad-operations is a tough job. Like everything digital, the role has adapted over time and evolved in response to the digital ecosystem in which it inhabits. Like Darwin’s theory of Evolution…only slightly more complex.  The purpose of this blog is not to strictly define what ad-operations is but to give the mass agency populace a better understanding of where we fit into the digital marketing landscape and, interestingly, how this role came about. 


“The Chandler Bing Syndrome”

What is Chandler's job question is at 4.00.

Surprising to some, the ad-ops role is older than your average digital marketer at the ripe old age of 25 and was born out of a need to create process around the whole ‘go-live’ workflow. The basic understanding of ad-ops is that we linger in some sort of purgatory between planners, publishers & finance; and for the most part this would be accurate. But what exactly we do there is not widely understood. Technically speaking Ad Operations “refers to processes and systems that support the sale and delivery of online advertising.” Put simply, our job is to get ‘campaigns live’ with optimum tracking and responsibility for reporting of same.

This translates into a varying job spec depending on the agency or publisher set-up, but for the most part the fundamentals of the job are consistence across the board. We are troubleshooters and problem solvers, working amidst technology changes, cross-platform integration and rapid advances in media buying. Clear as mud? Great. The following infographic might help you understand the workflow.

Flow Chart

Once We Were Hackers

According to Rob Beeler, VP of Content & Media at AdMonsters, the job started out in the States as a hacking role. Before the days of third party ad-serving solutions, sales people often sold clients solutions and ad ops had to hack to figure out a way to bring that to fruition. Subsequently, the role developed under the generic pseudonym of Media Analyst until the ad ops role as we know it today came into its own. Analysts would gather assets from production teams, organise the info, and email all the details to each website.  If teams didn’t have analysts the poor account managers were made responsible for this element of the job on top of their own media planning duties.  

The role itself became transformed when the technology started to catch up and the need for a proper workflow and dedicated employees became apparent. Management identified that the ever growing spectrum of the digital workflow required specialised people in specialised areas. Nowadays Ad Ops has a much stronger voice as it is now recognised as a valuable contributor to revenue and how it is intertwined with finance, business development and overall company strategy is widely acknowledged. Thus, ad operations has become a vital component of the digital team and thus our army continues to multiple and advance into the formidable force it is today.

The future is bright….the future is programmatic

Flow Chart

There’s no doubt that the ever increasing rise of programmatic buying will continue to bring about major changes and challenges to publishers, agencies and brands. IAB reckon that today approx. 20% of all digital advertising is sold by one machine talking to another. Whilst publishers face challenges on monetization and optimum pricing, what changes will programmatic bring about for ad ops?

Although automation remains the optimum word when it comes to programmatic, the robots can’t do it all and much of the work will remain manual for the foreseeable….or maybe I’m just a bit short-sighted. For example:

  • Dynamic creative will be at the forefront of programmatic formats and creative QA will remain a big part of the job. Testing feeding links and ensuring the various creative components are synching together accurately.
  • Testing and evaluating new partners.
  • Optimising campaign and account set-up.
  • Standardisation and adoption of io’s and media plans to meet programmatic specifications
  • Policing transparency and viewability will be a concern (and screenshot request will thankfully become a thing of the past!)
And last but not least…
  • Reporting! Like a shadow in the sunlight there’s just no getting away from it. The challenge will be to make the reporting as streamlined as possible across systems and tools, although getting there will remain a manual job. Tomorrow’s blog will talk more about the evolvement of reporting.

IAB Australia have produced a neat little programmatic campaign workflow chart for your perusal.

Our Ad Ops blog series will continue this week--stay tuned for more buzzwords, processes, and insider info!