Everything New Is Ops Again: Thoughts on Eight Years of the Ops Conference

Everything New Is Ops Again

On the East Coast, the lack of sunny skies and warmer temps make it hard to tell spring has arrived. One unmistakable sign, however, is our continuous stream of new speaker announcements for Ops. Can anyone else think of a better way to announce the beginning of a season than a conference about digital advertising?

You might have answered in the negative to that question, but I know for the past eight years my year has been split between pre-Ops and post-Ops. It’s a big deal for us at AdMonsters to pull off Ops, and it seems each year we add a new level of complexity to pull the event off. Nope, we’re not masochists (Ed.: Speak for yourself); it’s just part of our culture. Every year, ad operations is expected to up its game, and so we ourselves feel the expectation to do the same.

I decided today to look back at the first Ops and see what’s changed and what’s the same. Here are some of my observations:

Ops has grown in every conceivable fashion. The original Ops clocked in with 13 sessions and 192 attendees. This year, with our additional half day, we have over 50 sessions. Last year we had 750+ attendees, and we expect at least as many this year. I distinctly remember the reaction last year when people who had never been to Ops realized just how big a production it was. Think about it: A conference about ad operations brings over 750 people. Eight years ago, I know I wasn’t thinking about the event growing to that size.

But that shows the shift of attention in our industry to the doing, not just the selling. Our niche audience has grown not only in size but in importance, and it’s exciting to see the event reflect that same trajectory.

There were no sessions about header bidding. Can you even conceive of such a thing? Yes, hard to believe that we didn’t have header bidding sessions back then. Now it feels almost mandatory to talk about it. Yes, the topics have evolved as well… and yet, there are some familiar themes. Take, for example, Ed Montes’ keynote session, “When Will Online Advertising Evolve?” At the time, Ed was Managing Director of North America of Havas, and this is the summary of that session:

The digital marketplace is fast paced and ever changing, but for all our so called innovation, we remain stuck in the primordial ooze from where we came. The lack of standards and compatibility among buyers and among sellers hold us back. Our industry’s inability to agree over the use of data is damaging our potential. We must be more aggressive about addressing the increasing demands of a digital-centric environment… It exceeds storing data and connects data to action, and suggests a new model of distribution.

Mix in a brand safety reference and a few acronyms, and it feels like Ed’s session would be a great fit this year.

Everything old is new again (except the new things which are new). Which is an interesting way to look at operations-focused content. The same themes we covered in the first Ops are still with us today. Inefficiency in the marketplace. Brand safety. Maximizing revenue. TV and video convergence. But for every recurring topic is a new one we haven’t talked about (platform publishing, server-to-server bidding, selling on engagement) and for the recurring topics, each year brings new twists. I saw this video from Elon Musk today that felt familiar.

In some ways Ops is the same. We don’t reinvent everything with every campaign – we look for efficiencies, and for every repetitive task, we try to find a faster, better way to do each time. So yeah, similar topics but look how far we’ve gone. By the way, that slight feeling of nausea you had after the video is the same feeling you’ll get when you realize how quickly things are changing in our industry.

With that, welcome to Ops season – a great time to take a moment to measure how far we’ve come and you’ve come in digital advertising. Come join hundreds of others like you who can’t help but dive into these topics to see what we can learn.