Draft Strategies for Ad Technology and Fantasy Football – Choose Wisely

Anyone know what time of year it is?  That’s right, it’s fantasy football draft season.  If you’ve played before, you know that draft season is the most stressful time of year.  This is when you have to sit down, look at all the players that are available and decide which ones will help you win a fantasy football championship.  There are many strategies that you can deploy, and the most conventional is to draft running backs- fast, furious and early on.  Why?  They are the steady players that give you consistent point production.  But, fantasy football has changed.  Lots of NFL teams have moved away from running the ball and have opted for the exciting air attack.  This opened up opportunities for fantasy owners to structure their teams around additional point contributors like a Quarter Back like Drew Brees or a Wide Receiver like Larry Fitzgerald.  Decisions, decisions.

How does fantasy football relate back to digital media? 

Well, it’s also technology budgeting season.  Today’s publishers and specialty ad networks feel the stress of making technology decisions for 2011.  They have to sit down, review all the projects they are going to push for and make a stake in the ground that “these are the initiatives that will put us in the best position to win in 2011”. 

Many of these projects will fall into 2 categories.  The first category is revenue.  Plain and simple, if that project is successful, it will directly help you make money.  There should be no ambiguity.  Some example projects include:

  • Implementing custom creative services to help you attract new brands
  • Engaging with a mobile, video or  social media ad server that promotes engagement metrics or gives you a competitive advantage in the market place
  • Introducing rich media tools

The second category is around helping companies drive efficiency inside and outside their organization.  Below are some examples of efficiency-focused initiatives:

  • Syncing your publisher/partner/network management systems
  • Evaluating and deploying reconciliation, reporting and billing tools
  • Integrating with proposal , IO and media planning applications

In order to be successful in 2011, media companies need to do both.  You MUST do both.  If you don’t innovate, you won’t attract the big ad dollars.  If you only innovate and forget about the back-end efficiency, you’ll lose all the customers you won or have a ceiling on the amount of customers you can take-on due to inefficiency.  Quite the predicament. 

For most media companies, there are the few factors contributing to this problem:


  • You’ve got 1 engineering team and they are drinking through a fire hose.  I don’t care who you are…if you’re a digital media owner in some capacity, your engineering team has too much on their plate and not enough time.  Furthermore, with all the new technology in the market place, it’s just getting worse and worse.
  • Most publishers, even today, still run their business on excel.  There’s not one platform in place that you can use as a springboard for innovation.  Not one place to connect all these new things that you’re buying or creating.  This is also the reason your operations teams are so busy.  They have to log into 10 different systems to get their jobs done.
  • A large percentage of the technology and business leadership within media organizations still promotes a “let’s build it all” type of mentality.  For example, the industry hasn’t matured enough where the role of the CIO is relevant – there’s no one to advise the CEO on best practices on how to get information, drive revenue and scale (all at the same time).

If this sounds familiar and your ability to be successful depends on your engineering team executing, consider some of these ideas:

  • Make a list of all the projects you have on your plate for 2011.  From there, put a “$” next to each one that your sure will help you drive revenue next year.  Then, put an “E” next to the ones that will help your bottom line (efficiency gains, speed to market, etc.).  Getting clarity on what these projects actually “mean” for the business is the first step.
  • From there, make the decision to partner with a company that can offer an enterprise platform to help you run your day to day business and gain those efficiencies (inventory management, proposals, packaging, trafficking, reporting, financial reconciliation, etc.).  Make sure your partner has an API and SDK to help you innovate.  You’ll find there are companies that can not only help you get deal with a lot of your “E”s, but also enable you to innovate the “$”s.
  • It’s important to ensure that the company’s technology culture has a strategic focus on revenue and strategic value creation.  I ran into one publisher recently who calls his engineering team “Team Money”.  That’s because their engineering leadership has a mentality of selecting projects that will help the company drive new revenue by establishing partnerships with companies that help them achieve greater efficiency.   This is a cultural change and isn’t always easy.  Engage your CEO in this concept – make it a big deal towards hitting the 2011 revenue number.

By focusing your engineering teams on things that are exciting (like drafting quarterbacks and wide receivers) and partnering with a company that can help you innovate and scale (your work horse running back), you’ll be in a better position to be successful in 2011…successful in beating your competition, meeting the new demands of brand advertisers, raising employee satisfaction in your engineering department and keeping both the top and bottom line on the up and up. 

Editor’s note: Post originally appeared on the Operative blog.