Taking on Creatives

I went to one of my traffickers to get the scoop on a major campaign that had been canceled. “Yeah,” he said, “the cancellation order just came through. No reason given.” I started to walk away when he said, “I knew it wasn’t going to work anyway.”  He then went on to explain how obvious it was to him that the creative wasn’t going to get any results.

Now my first thought was to ask him why he didn’t speak up, but I think most ad operations people know the answer: “Why say anything? What does Ad Operations know about creative?”

At a certain level it makes sense – most people in Ad Ops are in it for the creativity of problem solving, not the creativity of designing ads. By the time an ad gets to Ad Ops, everyone just wants to see the ad go live. I learned early on in my career that hiring someone with a design background for an operations role would most likely end poorly. In fact, I made a point in the interview process to warn people new to Ad Ops that we don’t get to design the ads, just get to book them.

That being said, perhaps Ad Ops doesn’t have to be like Laverne and Shirley and simply watch all the bottles go past. Perhaps this is another area where Ad Operations can look to add value to the company by utilizing two of its strengths: process and data.

The opportunity to optimize creative based on the creative itself will vary based on the publisher. A publisher who offers their clients creative services is better positioned to develop optimization strategies than one that for the most part books third party tags. Additionally, the ability to concentrate on creative is something not all Ad Ops teams will have the bandwidth to take on. Here are some suggestions that hopefully everyone can utilize:

Your process should always capture how each campaign’s success/failure will be measured. No doubt that this requirement will spark some internal discussions, but this information is necessary and those internal discussions are extremely important. Understanding what a client needs is business 101, but too often on the Internet we don’t follow these basic practices. The fact that tracking ‘success’ beyond clicks is tricky is exactly why you should be discussing it. Capturing this data is going to help you categorize creatives by success measurement and provide the stage for further analysis.

Establish performance baselines. Start simple by understanding how different ad sizes on your site perform for your success measures. Then look at context – where the ads run. Once there, start looking at creative aspects of the ads (client category, animation, color, etc.) and see if you can see patterns emerge. It’s possible you’ll find something you can go back to sales and possibly to your clients with that will help them with future campaigns.

Give your traffickers an incentive to comment on the creative. Make it part of their job to provide feedback. I recommend having traffickers flag creatives before a campaign starts that they think will do extremely well or extremely poorly and have them track their predictions. As they get better, make sure they are recording what they are learning in the process. Collect this information and you might put your department in the position to save business by raising their hand at the right time.

I am sure there are plenty of other steps Ad Operations can take to help improve creatives that run on their sites. It’s a topic I’d like to see discussed further on this website, on the members’ list or at one of our events and would encourage anyone willing to share. The fact is that there is a growing discussion in the industry about creatives that ad operations leaders should participate in.

Related Links:

IAB Readies Push To Combat Online’s ‘Creative Shabbiness’ [Media Post]
WTF? IAB Says Performance is a Bad Thing for Online Ads [Jonathan Mendez]

Rob Beeler is Vice President of Content and Media for AdMonsters and has worked in Ad Operations for over ten years. Rob started attending AdMonster events in 2004 as a member and will be in New Orleans on March 8th for Publisher Forum US XX