Top Themes from the IAB Ad Operations Summit

Yesterday I attended the IAB Ad Operations Summit. It was a packed house which I believe demonstrates how Ad Ops is at the forefront of revenue and top of mind for digital media companies.

Here are some of my key observations and takeaways from the day:

Breaking down offline vs online

Today we are closer to the convergence of media more than ever before. A content provider can send out a message that reaches people wherever they are and how ever they want to be reached.

Donna Speciale, Medivest pointed out in her keynote that when marketers buy network TV they know what they are getting and the same needs to be true for digital. She also talked about how some companies are combining off and online sales teams and eliminating digital silos.

This is such an important change and really signifies how digital is no longer going to be off in a corner of the building somewhere. Digital has become even more important for media companies beyond just day to day operations because of its ability to drive revenue.

Verification Standards

During the panel on verification services there was an intriguing suggestion that came from the audience: the IAB should consider forming a standard around verification services. Later in the day Adrian D’Souza and Dan Murphy drove this point home by stating that forming those standards would be a top priority in 2011.

Grace Liau from VivaKi made a lot of great points and reminded us that using a verification service is still an operational burden. Oren Netzer the Co-Founder and CEO of DoubleVerify, mentioned that 80% of media buyers surveyed would pay more for verified inventory but Liau also pointed out that at the end of the day value of inventory is defined by performance.

A call to action – Industry Self-regulation

On my way to conference I overheard a conversation between two gentlemen (who are not in our industry). One was trying to explain behavioral targeting to the other, “They cookie you, everyone cookies you – from the moment you log on you are tracked and its all used for advertising!”

At the heart of industry self-regulation is this concept consumer notice. The regulators want online behavorial advertising to be communicated consistently to users, to be transparent for the user, and to give them options.

Mike Zaneis and Charles Curran discussed the Self-regulatory Principles of Online Behavioral Advertising and more specifically what the implementation of consumer notice would look like. You can read more about this at

Both Zaneis and Curran made it clear that they are firing the starting gun and that the industry needs to get on board. They said the bottom line is if we don’t self-regulate as industry, we are inviting the government to step in and do it for us.

Solving Discrepancies

Stephen Dove from DoubleClick by Google presented an update on the Impression Exchange. It is a real working solution in the DFP system today. Microsoft is also involved in adopting the solution. However he made an appeal to the other ad serving technologies to participate in the Impression Exchange. He feels that if they don’t take steps towards adoption then it won’t work to scale.

Digital Video

IAB Digital Video Committee Co-Chair Joey Trotz lead a panel to discuss if the implementation of VAST had any impact on the marketplace. The panel also discussed audience targeting and what metrics will need to be in place in order for digital video spend to match online video consumption.

The key to VAST adoption seems to be three things. One is awareness – several people in the room did not know what the VAST acronym stands for. The second is for ad operations to implement and lastly it requires the demand for adoption from the industry. Nick Johnson, SVP Digital Media Sales at NBC Universal talked about how critical ad operations was in adopting the standard but it was the demand from the agency side that really pushed the initiative. He said when agencies were asking for VAST compliancy, the ad ops and product teams were already on it. “A lot of innovation has come from video and the heavy lifting comes from ad ops and product teams.”

There is an expectation from agencies, technology partners, ad networks, and publishers that the VAST implementation is in place. It needs to be as ubiquitous as the javascript ad tag. Max Goodberg from FreeWheel pointed out, “When someone doesn’t use VAST it breaks the chain; universal adoption would be great to see.”

Bring creative shops into the room

Another big topic at the Summit centered around this idea of making better advertising creative. How do we make ads that are more, compelling, more – dare I say it – sexy?

During the ad formats panel there was a lot of discussion that ensued about the divide between creative shops and media shops (and let’s face it – creative shops and the rest of the industry). There was a great audience comment about how there are many Flash developers that don’t even know what the IAB is.

How can we expect to solve problems like late creative, building to correct specs or creating better ads when the very people who are expected to do all those things are not involved in the conversation?

I would love to hear your takeaways from the day and your opinions on the topics that were discussed. Please let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Also if you would like to contribute to Leading Operations Online with an article about your takeaways from the IAB Ad Operations Summit, or about other topics that you feel are important to the industry please contact us.

See more comments from the day on Twitter.