Ad Ops – also known as Digital Ad Operations – refers to systems and processes that support digital advertisements’ delivery and management. The concept describes any process that helps a marketing team manage, run, or optimize ad campaigns, making them an integrating part of the business operations.
Understanding Ad Ops
Ad Ops is a somewhat generic term describing any process that helps a marketing team manage, run, or optimize ad campaigns. Traditionally, this process was very simple. But many consumers now interact with brands in a multi-screen digital world with attention split between desktops, smartphones, and tablets.
Each of these devices provides a different user experience, displaying advertisements through banners, video, text, search, and mobile to name a few. Marketing teams must be able to interact with various platforms including ad networks, ad servers, ad exchanges, supply-side platforms (SSPs), and data management platforms (DMPs). Ultimately, each campaign must respect the device it is being displayed on while maximizing ad revenue for the company.
As demands increase, Ads Ops teams are utilizing new trends such as programmatic advertising, where automated software purchases digital ad space on their behalf. However, these teams must manage a range of unautomated tasks while understanding both sides of the advertising ecosystem. In other words, they must be sensitive to the needs of the sell-side (publishers) and buy-side (advertisers).
Some major responsibilities of Ad Ops teams
Individuals within an Ad Ops team enjoy a dynamic and varied role, with no two days being the same.
Nevertheless, there are some core responsibilities unique to most campaigns:
- Scheduling. In other words, when should the ad be scheduled for maximum ROI? Scheduling may revolve around a certain time of day, or it may focus on holidays, weekends, or special events.
- Trafficking. This requires a specialist role to oversee the monitoring and delivery of ads across various exchanges or servers. Tasks may include the tracking of third-party vendor ad tags or the implementation of ad campaigns using dedicated services such as Google Ad Manager.
- Optimization. Every ad must be optimized for the number of clicks it receives. Optimization can be achieved through correct ad placement, word choice, and proper SEO. In some instances, ads must reflect an awareness of changing trends or standards.
- Yield management. Each task that an Ad Ops team performs should have some relation to driving revenue. Yield managers search for opportunities to increase revenue generation through advertising. This may involve the restructuring of content based on user behavior analytics or the reallocation of inventory pricing to increase profits.
Ad Ops best practices
All Ad Ops teams should incorporate these best practices as the basis of a sound campaign:
- Define objectives – what is the goal of the campaign? It is not enough to broadly state a goal of increasing profits or brand recognition. Use the SMART goals system to help define thoughtful, effective objectives.
- Define the correct medium – how should the message of the campaign be delivered? Mediums such as email, social media, video, and content will be most suited to a specific target audience or device.
- Craft the message – make sure that the ad campaign centers on one key idea or message. Importantly, it must be relatable to the target audience and company objectives.
- Evaluate and adjust as necessary – continually evaluate campaigns for effectiveness and reconfigure if important targets or metrics are not being met.
Ad ops vs. Programmatic
Ad ops comprise the advertising services that manage digital ad sales online. Advertisers who want to purchase ad space are connected with websites that have ad space to sell with tailored ad ops technology.
More generally, ad ops refers to any process or system that supports the delivery (or management) of advertisements via digital mediums. These mediums may include mobile, search, video, banner, rich media, and more.
Ad operations is managed by a team responsible for ad creation, management, and testing with a goal to generate revenue.
They interact with various ad networks, exchanges, or servers and also with supply and demand side platforms.
Major responsibilities of ad ops teams
- Scheduling – this deals with decisions pertaining to when ads should run. Some are run at certain times of day, while others are optimized for holidays, weekends, or special events.
- Trafficking – ad traffickers are those that manage an ad campaign with the assistance of an ad server such as Google Ad Manager. They manage and monitor delivery across ad exchanges and track third-party tags from multiple vendors.
- Optimization – any initiative to optimize CTC (cost to click) factors such as ad location, SEO, trends, or standards.
- Demand management – to cater to the enormous demand that sales teams of some publishers generate, ad ops teams are also responsible for many client-facing duties such as handling contractual matters, negotiating on behalf of the client, and following up on agreements to ensure compliance.
- Yield management – where the team seeks to streamline operations to reduce costs and maximize profits. For example, an ad ops team may reconfigure the layout of a website based on user behavior.
What is programmatic advertising?
Programmatic advertising involves the use of algorithmic software to purchase digital advertising, drive impressions at scale, and deliver a better ROI for marketers.
In contrast to traditional advertising methods which require proposals, quotes, tenders, or negotiation with the seller, programmatic advertising’s use of software makes it an automated buying and selling solution.
This frees up time that can be better spent on ad optimization to improve the company’s likelihood of success.
Companies are increasingly turning to programmatic advertising to streamline their approach as the world emerges from COVID-19 and AI tech becomes more advanced.
How does programmatic advertising work?
Programmatic advertising utilizes data insights to serve ads to targeted users at the right time and the right place.
In short, this ecosystem is supported by three main components:
- Demand-side platform (DSP) – a place where advertisers can purchase ad inventory.
- Supply-side platform (SSP) – comprised of software that enables publishers to sell ad impressions to buyers in real-time. These impressions may be for display, mobile, or video ads.
- Ad exchanger – where the SSP feeds inventory into the ad exchange itself and connects to the DSP. At this intersection, advertisers, networks, publishers, and agencies can buy and sell ad space with prices normally set in a real-time auction. Remember, this process is automatic.
What is the difference between ad ops and programmatic advertising?
In very general terms, programmatic advertising is a type of ad ops that is best suited to less technical users who desire a more hands-off solution.
The obvious difference in automation level, some argue, also means that traditional ad ops requires individuals to have a more robust and specialized skill set than those employed in programmatic.
In many companies, programmatic advertising is simply one of many tools in their ad ops arsenal. Ad ops also tends to be more functional and versatile because it has been around longer and has had more time to develop.
Key differences between ad ops and programmatic
- Ad ops comprise the advertising services that manage digital ad sales online and refers to any process or system in support of the delivery or management of advertisements via digital mediums.
- Programmatic advertising involves the use of algorithmic software to purchase digital advertising, drive impressions at scale, and deliver a better ROI for marketers.
- In general, programmatic advertising is a more automated type of ad ops that requires less specialized knowledge and client interaction.
- Ad Ops refers to a suite of systems and processes that support digital advertisement delivery across multiple devices.
- Ad Ops is a broad and dynamic industry requiring responsive and multi-skilled teams. These teams must be well versed in the scheduling, optimization, and trafficking of ads.
- Some aspects of Ad Ops have been automated to reflect the increasing complexity of online advertising. Nevertheless, Ad Ops requires that practitioners be competent using a range of ad networks, servers, exchanges, and platforms.
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