From Traffic to Strategic Insights: The New 'Data Ops' Practitioner
The role of the ad operations professional is evolving. As data plays an increasingly important role for every advertiser and publisher, the role of ad operations has, in turn, rapidly expanded.
It’s no longer enough to just ensure a placement is trafficked correctly and that campaigns are pacing at an expected rate. Ad operations professionals are now responsible for oversight on the flow of data to all manner of third-party services. This includes services chartered with targeting creative to users, measuring ad effectiveness, finding “look-alike audiences,” recommending products and a myriad of other important functions. Data is, after all, the lifeblood of a holistic marketing strategy today.
As anyone in the operational trenches of online advertising knows, getting an advertiser’s creative to appear on a publisher’s site requires a working knowledge of a dizzying arsenal of ad-serving features. Each ad delivered represents real revenue which means meticulous attention must be paid to the configuration of every placement and creative. Knowledgeable ad operations teams – at the helm of ad-serving platforms with robust features sets – exist to meet this challenge.
As ad serving has become much more sophisticated over time, more third-party services are now involved. The ad ops pro is tasked with managing this third-party data flow as a natural extension of the role of being the ad trafficker.
Thus the ad operations team today is increasingly asked to liaise with different constituents who may be outside the primary ad-serving discussion. For example, the site’s IT and engineering team likely has some expectations around latency, bounce rate and overall performance – all of which are impacted when a third party’s data collection tag is implemented. Legal and compliance teams will be interested in the practices and policies around data collection and how consumers’ requests for opting out are handled across a global footprint.
Finally, front-end and user experience teams need to ensure that third-party services delivering content back to the page are maintaining consistent styling and not degrading the customer experience.
A Path to Better Data Flow
In addition to juggling a broader range of internal stakeholders, the ad ops professional must leverage the technology available to handle an increasingly complex data flow. In the case of ad trafficking, a singular focus on delivering ads to pages can be accomplished using traditional ad servers. Sophisticated features like tiling, scheduling, sequencing, frequency capping, audience targeting, storyboarding, rich media, geo-targeting, Boolean/non-boolean keyword targeting, and header-based targeting create intricate rules overseeing ad delivery. Today’s ad servers were designed to handle this level of precision.
Most ad servers simply piggyback these tags through their built-in container tag solutions. However, this method of data collection is limited to a subset of pages and is not well equipped to gather and distribute complex attributes. It is also known to cause latency by forcing the browser to do more processing. As such, today’s ad ops pros are being asked to do more with less.
Flexible Technology Required
The imbalance and lack of focus on the critical logistics of data distribution leaves ad operations teams at a disadvantage with forward-thinking sites. Today’s innovative marketers want to test and measure different services, redesign user experience with advanced design goals, maximize site acceleration and page performance, and leverage page interaction, recency, and frequency in the spirit of optimizing every single data touchpoint a third-party service accesses. There are third-party services on the market today to help them do all of those things and it is the role of the ad trafficker to manage the entire process.
We are now at a point where the ad operations role should be renamed “data operations.” The valuable resources tasked with this new responsibility need the freedom and technology to take a holistic view of their data and seamlessly apply it to assorted services like ad serving, analytics, retargeting, attribution, recommendations, multi-variate testing and any other functional areas.
In order to execute that undertaking, the data operations team requires toolsets that are inspired by the precision that an ad server offers for ad delivery, but applied to a far bigger vision.
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Todd Chu has proven expertise in the areas of data strategies, tag management, server-side data distribution, systems integration, attribution, ad serving and web analytics. As SVP of Partner Development at BrightTag, he works closely with global enterprise brand leaders and their digital solution providers to drive online marketing results. Todd is recognized by clients and partners alike as a creative problem solver and an invaluable resource who can seamlessly bridge the gap between business and technology. He has held senior sales engineering, client services and business development roles at a number of leading advertising technology companies including DoubleClick and Atlas. Todd has a B.S.E. in Industrial and Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan.