Online Ad Operations: Properly Defined and How to Staff – Part 4

Defining Traffic Managers, Client Services Managers, and Analysts

Ad Operations must be clearly defined and communicated to the company, especially to the departments who interact with it. That is: what this staff does in this organization, and what this staff does not do. Otherwise, it is not unusual for Ad Operations to become the go-to group for whatever another department or employee needs, even tasks or data unrelated to Ad Operations. For example, unless Ad Operations has a site traffic analyst on staff, it should not field requests for page view reports or analysis. Or, if the staff is not responsible for sending e-newsletters, it should field requests for email sends or opens, or subscription database inquiries.

That doesn’t mean Ad Operations cannot take on those roles, but it will need to be staffed appropriately and equipped with the required tools and access. A newsletter producer, a site traffic analyst and a traffic manager should not all be the same person. These should be three different employees working together, whether in the same department or separate ones.

There is a common list of tasks that are the responsibility of Ad Operations. Some of these tasks may take a few minutes, others may take many hours, or even days of attention. These tasks can be divided into three basic categories of focus: Technical, Administrative, and Analytical.

It makes sense to subdivide these tasks to increase focus. You can assign the technical work to a traffic manager, the administrative work to a client services manager, and the analytical work to an analyst. This reduces priority juggling and helps to reduce error, as it takes advantage of the technical skills of one employee, the people skills of second employee, and the analytical skills of a third.

The functions could be divided this way:

Traffic Manager (TM)

•    Set up new ads in an ad server, or additional ads to existing campaign, or switch out old creatives for new ones
•    Work with client on a third party tag that isn’t testing properly
•    Work with client on proper implementation of the clickTAG call in Flash ActionScript
•    Adjust or rebook campaign parameters
•    Monitor daily campaign delivery
•    Provide regular delivery reports (weekly, monthly, and/or upon completion of campaigns)
•    Diagnose ad serving problems and work with the ad server’s customer support

Client Services Manager (CSM)

•    Manage the dashboard or email inbox and either field inquiries or redirect communication as necessary
•    Chase materials for new insertion orders, including new or missing materials such as click URL or a missing ad size
•    Chase insertion orders for materials that come in early
•    Make sure insertion orders are signed, complete, and clear
•    Make sure the sales reps are well informed
•    Respond to delivery report requests and provide regular delivery reports (weekly, monthly, and/or upon completion of campaigns)
•    Make sure client is well informed and satisfied
•    Answer client inquiries and fill out RFPs (“request for proposal” forms)
•    Monitor daily campaign delivery


•    Provide regular yield (effective CPM) reports for senior or corporate management
•    Respond to inventory forecast requests (available inventory queries, or “avails”) and provide forecasts regularly
•    Respond to delivery report requests and provide regular delivery reports (weekly, monthly, and/or upon completion of campaigns)
•    Monitor daily campaign delivery

Some of the tasks overlap roles, or can be divided a little differently at the discretion of the department head, based on the specific needs of the company. Yield reporting, for example, is often 80% of the workload of an Ad Operations Director, and inventory availability forecasting might be shared among the traffic managers unless it is too intense.

This internal structuring has worked for me, and many online companies. Taking client services work away from the traffic manager is especially helpful, as some traffic managers don’t have the greatest people skills, and some client services managers don’t have the greatest technical skills. A good Client Services Manager (CSM) can be a powerful asset toward strengthening relationships with clients as well as between internal employees. As reported by Media Business Online in 2008: “Dan Hirsh, publisher of IDG’s Network World, said Network World’s eight-person client services group ‘has become a point of differentiation for us, and we have made a sizable investment in it.'” 1

In my experience, organizations with clearly defined CSMs have a stronger quality of Ad Operations service, whether they are publishers, ad agencies, or ad networks.

Differentiating your staff helps to sub-divide the demand. In Part 1 of this article, I said that one sales rep with ten campaigns is easier for one trafficker than two sales reps with five campaigns each. With the above workflow strategy, the traffic manager’s job may be nearly the same either way, but the client services manager’s work is harder with two sales reps than with one. This allows for different scaling opportunities and workflow management.

In general, Client Services sits in between the client, the sales rep, and the traffic manager, keeping work organized and data streaming smoothly and clearly. They make sure that the sales rep’s paperwork, facts, proposals, follow-ups and project requests are in order and don’t fall off the radar, they make sure the clients are happy and well informed, and they make sure Ad Operations has everything they need.

However you can also differentiate between two different types of Client Services Managers: one kind works for Ad Operations, the other kind works for the sales staff.

The Ad Operations CSM is mostly a post-IO administrator, managing work after the IO is signed and executing the requirements in the IO by redirecting it to Ad Operations, email and web producers, webinar producers, and so forth.

The Sales CSM is mostly a pre-IO administrator, serving as an attaché for sales reps. I have seen many account managers become frustrated because they don’t have enough information available to them when they need it, and will call anybody they can to get that data, often starting with Ad Operations. If the company does not yet have dashboards or other tools that easily place inventory, e-newsletter, and site traffic data in front of sales so that they are well informed during a call, then someone ought to consolidate that information and report it to them regularly. That would be the duty of a Sales CSM person.

There are companies who have many more specialized CSMs and may give them different titles but it’s the job descriptions that are important.

“At Thomas Publishing’s Managing Automation, Joanne Hogan, VP-e-media, oversees the advertising support function, which resides in multiple departments: one person in sales and marketing supports webinars, two people in client services support lead-gen programs, and a fourth handles impression-based online ad units as well as print advertising production.” 1 (emphasis mine)

Although I would separate print and online client services, this is a solid example of how to organize job descriptions.

Staffing in this way solves a lot of excess communication workload and errors caused by incomplete or vague insertion orders, miscommunication, orphaned project requests or inquiries, and stress and confusion from lack of focus.


1 Service starts with the sale: Selling online advertising requires a follow-up process not needed in print, by Marie Griffin. Media Business Online: Feb 2008.


Editor’s note: This article is #4 in a 5 part series.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 5