Mr Take-Away Goes to London

Content VP Rob Beeler's Insights From OPS London And More

I was in London last week for OPS London and to prepare for our Vienna Publisher Forum June 17-20th. Fortunately my visit allowed me to mingle with some elite digital minds at a SpotXchange dinner and a packed IAB Mobile Engage event. While the focus of the dinner and the Mobile Engage weren’t on operations, I’m always looking out for insights to share with those who live, breathe and eat ops. It’s why some of my presenters refer to me as, “Mr. Takeaway”. Here are some specific takeaways I left with:

Operations can’t be so caught up in the technology.

AdMonsters was fortunate to have Jonny Shaw, Master Chieftan from Naked Play kick off another conference (Jonny spoke at OPS Mobile in New York in December) with some mind-expanding concepts. For users, mobile isn’t a technology – it’s a part of their behavior. Therefore business plans focused on technology will miss the point. As the operations role becomes more strategic (more on that later), we need to be cognizant of the danger of a myopic focus on the technology. Fru Hazlitt, Managing Director, Commercial & Online at ITV drove this point home with a fantastic presentation highlighting advertising executions that went beyond focus on new platforms to truly engaging users.

Mobile growth will not be big. It will be exponential.

Russell Buckley, Chief Marketing Officer at Eagle Eye Solutions at OPS London pointed out that many mistakes people have made in the past were not about stupidity but the fact that when a trend grows exponentially, there is actually very little time to act before the trend disrupts everything in its path. Mobile is that trend and for anyone that doesn’t recognize it, they will be disrupted by those that at thinking about Mobile as the first screen. The numbers speak for themselves. At IAB Mobile Engage, Richard Firminger, managing director of Flurry, stated that “there are 529 millions smartphones in the world as at April 2012” and Bruce Daisley from Twitter stated that “People look at their mobiles 150 times day, that’s once every six and a half minutes.” Ops folks: all your strategic initiatives must factor in the future of mobile.

It’s time to get new business cards.

Speaking of strategy, Louisa Wong, General Manager, EMEA AMNET, Aegis International Ltd, joined us on a panel at OPS London and shared her opinion that she doesn’t care for the word “operations”. In her opinion, the role of Ad Ops has grown beyond its roots in trafficking ads into something more. Most of us with Ad Operations in our title are actually “digital strategists”. What do you think? Which title best describes what you do?

Automation requires an active strategy.

At OPS London, Ben Barokas, a shoe-in for AdMonsters Hall of Fame if we had one (should we have one?), got me thinking with his comment that “automation requires an active strategy”. This is so key a concept for digital strategists to impart onto their business colleagues. As programmatic buying creates efficiencies for buyers and sellers, some processes and tasks may be reduced or eliminated, but these systems will need a new kind of person to drive them successfully. In a research paper AdMonsters will be releasing soon, we’ll show that a lot of publishers judge their SSP vendors simply on the basis of revenue generated for discretionary inventory and not enablers of a bigger strategy. That’s not an active strategy required to be successful in the new marketplace.

It’s probably time to stop referring to tablets as being mobile.

From Jon Mew, Director of Mobile and Operations at IAB UK, 74% of tablet usage is at home and people use tablets differently than they do PCs and smartphones. In fact, tablets turn users into engaged shoppers looking to explore. Branding opportunities, anyone? Jon Kitchen, Commercial Director at Dennis Enterprise at OPS London quoted Richard Seymour that apps are “a digitally facilitated analogue revolution”. If users prefer to flip through content vs. a scrolling web experience, why not build advertising models based more like a magazine than CPM sold banners? In contrast Jim Payne, CEO and Founder at MoPub, argued at OPS London that mobile advertising will be predominantly transacted through automated trading. I think there are lessons to learn from both.  Let’s create an ecosystem with the efficiency of RTB but with creative impact of a magazine ad with interactivity.

Strategically you should be as connected to others in the industry as a mobile user is to their phone.

Obviously we see the power of connecting with peers at AdMonsters – it’s the principle upon which we were built. But it was something that Stefan Bardega, Head of Mobile & Innovation, Mediacom stressed at IAB Mobile Engage the importance of making new friends because “In this market where barriers to entry are low, new partnerships are critical to innovation.” This is truly where the operations role grows into one of digital strategist. That’s why conferences like the swiftly approaching Publisher Forum in Vienna is so important. One cannot succeed with all of this change in our industry without a network of others to lean on.