Ad Ops 101Best PracticesBlog

9 Ways to Design the Best Ad Ops Team in the World

Lately I used to be talking with a good friend who’s heading up a brand new digital publishing organization that’s taking their gross sales in-house, they usually’re looking for all the regular trappings of ad know-how, in addition to standing up an Ad Ops workforce from scratch.

At first I assumed, “good luck with that!”, however then after some more critical thought, it occurred to me what a singular alternative he had to construct a world class organization.  In any case, so many organizations began their Ops teams so long ago, and have entrenched platforms, and enterprise strains to help that they in all probability wouldn’t work with at the moment if they didn’t have to.

Starting a brand new staff in this present day in age still has all the downsides of inexperience, however all the advantages of learning from everyone else’s errors.  In any case, how many people in the Ops group haven’t thought at one time or another, “if I could just blow it all away and start from scratch…”, oh how we’d do things in a different way.

It received me considering – what would the greatest Ad Ops staff in the world seem like?

Has Unrelenting Discipline

The perfect advert ops group in the world is, if nothing else, extremely nicely organized and extremely disciplined in every thing they do.  Don’t assume that discipline and organization are the similar, or that one is enough without the other.  What I mean by organization is that there is a longtime system that creates a consistent process which defines how work is completed, and what I imply by self-discipline is that everybody on the workforce religiously follows that course of.  Think about your favorite restaurant as a metaphor for this follow – the ones which are most profitable typically don’t have the greatest food, they’ve good food very persistently.  It’s the consistency of conduct that’s typically extra priceless that anything, and in Ad Ops I tend to assume it’s especially true.  One of the best Ad Ops workforce wouldn’t attempt to make mistakes, however they wouldn’t freak out about it, both.  Fairly, they’d attempt to design a process to determine when mistakes happen, and a daily apply of correcting them.

How you discover and instill self-discipline in your  Ad Ops organization is, in my opinion, the main job of the head of Ad Ops at any organization, and it’s a rattling troublesome thing.  You need the error-checking process to be easy sufficient that anyone can do it, fast enough to full that it may be finished incessantly and catch issues shortly, but comprehensive sufficient that it finds as broad an array of potential problems as potential.

Hires Rigorously

Once I was making my first rent ever, my boss’s boss gave me some recommendation – he stated, “hire anyone that put themselves through school or is ex-military; I guarantee they’re the hardest working people you can find.”  And while I’m unsure those people have a total monopoly on robust work ethic, I feel it stays strong recommendation because individuals with that type of background are adaptable and understand how to grind.  I’ve also found that anyone who was in the army earlier than they made it to Ops is as shut to a positive factor as you will get.   The former is often straightforward to work out in an interview, the different much less so, but they are each wonderful predictors of an Ad Ops Samurai, and it’s because they have a sense of discipline ingrained within them.

I feel it’s value hiring two sorts of people for Ad Ops, no experience however high horsepower, or business ninjas.  The former are basically curious, hardworking individuals who can study anything but don’t know an advert server from a knowledge management platform, and the latter are simply the high horsepower people with a couple of years in the trenches, the rockstars of their groups.  I interview every sort of individual in utterly alternative ways – for those who don’t have any business experience, I’ll ask very little about the business past verifying a base degree of understanding of what the company does and what the candidate finds appealing about the job.  When you’re an experienced hire though, I’ll ask far more detailed questions on what you probably did, how you probably did it and why, specific to the gory particulars of advert operations.

Has an Organized Ad Server Implementation

One of the best ad ops staff in the world has an immaculate ad server implementation which allows maximum flexibility, velocity, and room for progress.  This is true challenge to execute, because who is aware of what the next sort of product shall be, or what the subsequent integration would require.  I might write a number of standalone posts on how to implement an ad server, however I’ve listed a couple of high degree greatest practices under.

Hierarchy in All the things

A pillar of advert ops administration is the use of a hierarchy system in the advert server implementation, both for vertical products in addition to horizontal products.  What I mean by vertical products is the contextual parent-child construction that’s sometimes network > website > part > subsection the place a selected part is father or mother to a number of subsections, a website is father or mother to a number of sections, and so forth.  The most typical error individuals make here is by skipping a degree in their hierarchy, typically unintentionally. For instance, as many conventional desktop-only publishers had to evolve their enterprise to help video and cellular channels, they neglected to create a brand new variable for channel, and as an alternative created new sites for each channel / website combination, thereby breaking their sample.  Most of the time, this seems like a shortcut; as an alternative of getting to add each a website variable and a channel variable, Ops can just add a singular website variable.

For my part although, that is laziness cloaked in efficiency and a shortsighted strategy, because it definitely makes downstream reporting harder, but in addition units a dangerous precedent for sloppiness.  Why not create a brand new website for app vs. net?  Why not create a new website for set prime video vs. net video vs. cellular video?  It sounds smart now, but it is going to shortly create a confounding mess in your concentrating on timber.  Equally, you could not assume you’ll ever need to run a marketing campaign across multiple channels now, but who knows – perhaps that shall be commonplace apply in two years. In the event you fragment what must be a single variable into multiple variables at present, you construct in future limitations for yourself.

From a horizontal perspective, what I mean there’s an audience based mostly hierarchy, or taxonomy for those who like.  Hopefully you possibly can simply replicate the taxonomy in place in your DMP (it is best to, anyhow) so that you simply keep an analogous parent-child relationship.  For instance, one widespread construction is viewers > demo > gender.  On this case, one more reason why you’d need each sort of concentrating on to roll up to a single variable a the end of the day is so you possibly can exclude users who have any viewers variable if mandatory, perhaps for reporting reasons, or so that you’ve individually target

Variables Don’t Combine

Another widespread mistake that the greatest ad ops workforce in the world would by no means make is to use one variable for multiple value.  This occurs all the time, often when an present variable has to get cut up into multiple (for instance, when the 728×90 unit used to be a easy desktop idea, but is now an element that’s managed specific to desktop and tablet environments), or as Ad Ops teams wrestle to work out how to onboard a brand new paradigm of variables (for instance, once they launch a DMP).  One place the place you’ll see combined variables quite a bit is with header bidding implementations, particularly on publishers who use single request structure (SRA).

Best in class Ops groups chew the bullet on things like this and don’t merely add “728×90 – tablet” as a brand new worth in addition to “728×90” in the measurement or place variable.  In the event that they did that, they’d now have to keep in mind that ‘728×90’ is restricted to desktop.  The appropriate thing to do is to create a new variable referred to as ‘channel’ (with potential values like ‘tablet’, ‘desktop’, ‘smartphone’), and keep the ‘728×90’ worth as an unbiased and probably valid value throughout all channels.

Sure – two variables for 2 concepts:

“Channel = Tablet; Size = 728×90”

No – one variable for 2 ideas:

“Size = 728x90_Tablet”

On the different aspect, you’ll be able to simply as simply make your life complicated in case you use extra variables than you want.  Specifically within DMP-related variables, many Ops teams make the mistake of utilizing multiple variables for one thing that only wants to be one.  For example, they use totally different values for audience varieties, like gender vs. household revenue vs. youngster in family status.  The higher approach to strategy this although is to merely mix a number of values in the similar variable along with an “OR” assertion, or a “union” expression for all you fancy SQL individuals on the market.

Sure – one variable with multiple values of the similar idea:

“Audience = age:25-54, hhi:$100K, child:yes”

No – multiple variables with a single value within the similar concept:

“Age = 25-54; HHI = $100K; Child = Yes”

Enforces an Ad Spec & Tag Validation

I’ve written about what an ad spec is and the way to create one in the previous, and I’ll admit it’s not a glamorous process.  Most people once they think of updating their advert spec in all probability visualize themselves as Indiana Jones, blowing sand and cobwebs off an historic textual content carved into stone long ago when the world was totally different. That’s simply the problem though, too many people have an advert spec and then by no means implement it – and in the event you never implement the spec it serves no objective and you’re right to assume it’s a waste of time.  For those who’re a publisher that has no intention of pushing back on a buyer for a totally obnoxious and irresponsible tag, then by all means, eliminate your spec and cease losing Ops’s time!

For everyone else out there, although, contemplate why you’ve gotten this document in the first place; an advert spec is supposed to technically outline your artistic policies, which you’ve predetermined as a middle floor between your customers and your promoting clients.


You spec should look to cowl a great deal of floor, particularly in these trendy occasions we stay in.  You’ll want to have devoted sections for cellular, video, and display.  You’ll want to determine the distributors you accept and those you don’t settle for.  Which sizes you’re taking and do not take.  Attempt to reply widespread questions as properly – if your video spec says artistic must not exceed 30 seconds, do you actually mean 32 seconds, or will you ship back a artistic that’s 31 seconds to the agency?


When it comes to tags you possibly can by no means be too cautious – Ad Ops is usually the final line of defense when it comes to blocking nefarious advertisements from going up that secretly include malware.  Much more benign risks like knowledge collection pixels, or advert blocking know-how must be vetted.

Uses Know-how

I do know what you’re considering – who on earth has time to validate tags towards an advert spec?  Not many, which is why virtually everyone makes use of some type of know-how answer to do the work for them.  The Media Belief, AdValidation, and others supply merchandise in this area, they usually’re all fairly low cost.

Has Thorough, Up to date Documentation

Ad Ops is 50% business information, 50% company information.  You possibly can anticipate your advert server and other know-how platforms to offer you the fundamentals as to how their platform works, however you possibly can’t very nicely anticipate them to clarify the way it works in the context of your group, or clarify how campaigns must be named, or explain what the QA course of and checklist ought to be.  This is the level of inner documentation, to cover the nuances of inner company context, not re-write DFP’s Assist part.  The most effective advert ops groups don’t retailer implementation procedures as tribal information or oral history, they put pen to paper and clarify the way it works in plain English so that any consumer on the workforce can get a campaign up and operating in a pinch.  Higher but, they’ve a searchable wiki like Confluence to host info make it straightforward for the staff to replace.


Strong documentation incorporates step-by-step procedures, screenshots with visible cues, and an example campaign in the advert server which may be referenced for the finer details.  Good documentation can also be as a lot what to do as what not to do – it calls out the commonest errors customers make.


While it may be painful, documentation has to be maintained, which is admittedly a thankless activity.  Intelligent groups realize it’s a perfect activity to do when a new hire comes on board because it permits you to use a set of recent eyes that knows little to nothing about what you are promoting.  Since a new rent has zero preconceived notions of how issues should work, they serve as a great guinea pig to validate that issues are in reality, idiot proof.  The check, naturally, is can your new hire successfully practice themselves together with your present documentation?  Consider it not as a tough-love strategy to on-boarding new hires, however as the new hire’s first essential duty.  As they go through the course of and comply with your step-by-step processes and procedures, they’ll be unknowledgeable sufficient to present you the place your documentation has gaps, or is confusing.  And, by reviewing their work, and explaining their mistakes, they will apply their notes to upgrading the tutorials.

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