Top Women Honoree Melissa Bonnick: Leading Programmatic Innovation and Championing Diversity

Melissa Bonnick, Executive Director, Head of Programmatic, Paid Media Tagging & Trafficking, JPMorgan Chase, leverages her extensive ad operations expertise at JP Morgan & Chase to drive brand safety and foster inclusivity in the media industry.

Starting her journey in media with a Journalism degree from St. John’s University, Melissa Bonnick honed her writing skills. She learned to navigate diverse perspectives—an invaluable foundation for her career in advertising. 

Her initial foray into ad operations began with an internship at a small ad network, where she quickly ascended to a leadership role by embracing challenges and expanding her knowledge. This hands-on experience and mentorship solidified her expertise in ad operations and shaped her professional ethos.

Now at JP Morgan & Chase, she manages programmatic and paid media ad operations, ensuring brand safety and compliance with privacy regulations. Her recognition as a Top Women in Media and Ad Tech highlights her dedication to innovation in the industry and serves as inspiration for her mentees. Passionate about diversity, she has spearheaded initiatives to enhance spending with diverse partners, overcoming challenges to amplify historically underrepresented voices. 

In retrospect of being honored as a Top Women in Media and Ad Tech, Bonnick says, “It means the world to me! I put 110% of my effort into my work, and I’m honored to be recognized and, more importantly, able to show the ladies I mentor that doing work for the good of the industry and the places you work for can be recognized.” 

Andrew Byrd: Your career in ad ops began with an internship at a small ad network, where you quickly became an ad operations leader. Was there anything you learned at your first internship that still influences how you maneuver your career today?

Melissa Bonnick: While working at the ad network, I was fortunate to learn and grow professionally as an intern. I learned that, first and foremost, not to be afraid to take on the challenges of new tasks or to stretch my knowledge. If I didn’t raise my hand to take on additional responsibilities, I wouldn’t be where I am today. 

The job was rife with asking questions, learning new tech, and building optimal procedures, all of which are important in building a successful ad practice. In my role, I was able to be guided and have great mentors who helped me succeed. I reflect on so many instrumental colleagues who helped me learn the trade and solve problems, and I only hope that I have had a similar impact on others throughout my career journey. 

AB: You currently work at JP Morgan & Chase, managing programmatic, paid media ad operations, and tagging & trafficking. What are some of the key responsibilities you oversee on a daily basis?

MB: At JPMC, my key responsibilities include focusing on programmatic media and ensuring that it maintains brand safety while driving our core performance objectives. I also manage the privacy adherence for the firm across all ad tech we use and help ensure that we modify our tagging to account for any new regulation. Lastly, I manage best practices and engagement with all buying agencies regarding ad operations and delivery through the ad server, including any requirements for brand safety tracking. 

AB: I’ve spoken to many ad ops professionals who work in the programmatic supply chain, and the sentiment is that it is oversaturated and overcomplicated. Is this your experience? What advice would you give to publishers who feel this way? 

MB: Definitely, I find that it’s important for those who feel that way to rethink the work streams that can simplify the process within the company’s guardrails. At the firm, we have a conservative approach and prioritize the safety of the firm, our customers, and our clients. We are not overly cumbersome or manual in nature, and this gets us closer to publishers. 

We focus on building relationships with publishers directly, striking PMP and PG deals, and working on an allowed list. The allow list secures our firm’s safety while reducing the chances of diluting revenue shares to a partner. 

AB: You’ve been instrumental in spearheading the diverse spend initiative through programmatic. What drove you to work toward this goal, and what challenges did you face along the way? 

MB: Being a woman and a woman of color is the crux of who I am. For me, it was important that spend trends not only reflect the true diversity in the market but also highlight the diverse partner ecosystem whose voices are historically less heard compared to endemic players in the space. Regarding challenges, when you layer on filters to a buy, the volume of inventory naturally decreases. 

That share of available inventory dwindles even more with diverse inventory because of those filters. While that continues to be a challenge, it’s essential to try to maximize spending with diverse partners when and where it makes sense. Knowing that we could make simple changes in programmatic to help increase the spend those publishers see and then use that data to decide who we should then broker direct relationships with seemed like a natural step to take.

AB: What advice would you give aspiring professionals looking to build a career in digital advertising, especially in ad operations? 

MB: Be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Don’t let the unknown scare you; find safe spaces and mentors to guide you. Our industry changes so quickly that being open to that change becomes paramount, and finding individuals who can be a sounding board or mentor allows you to navigate that change.