In-House Versus Outsourced Ad Ops: Which Is Better?

Reading time: 9 minutes

When you become a publisher in the ad tech ecosystem, you have a lot of technological options at your disposal. All of these options are geared toward making your life easier, your website safer, and of course, bumping up your ad revenue stream. 

One of those options, which is actually more of a choice, is whether or not you should stick with in-house ad ops or go with outsourced ad ops.

Keep in mind, what works for another publisher may not work for you. The decision to keep your ad ops in-house or to outsource them will depend on a few different factors, so it’s best to assess your current situation and needs.

How do you go about assessing your needs? You can start by asking yourself the following questions:

How Often Do You Receive Direct Deals?

Direct deals in programmatic advertising are between the advertiser and the publisher, meaning you pre-negotiate your fixed CPM for your ad inventory and the advertiser agrees and that’s that. 

Having said that, if you’re dealing with direct deals for the majority of the time, then managing your ad operations shouldn’t be a problem. After all, direct deals don’t really depend on your website’s size, and micro-niche publishers tend to sign off on more direct deals compared to mid-size and large publishers. 

Having said that, direct deals really depend on the nature of your website, which is good news for small publishers as they don’t tend to have the financial room to outsource their operations. 

However, if you don’t really bother too much with direct deals, then it’s better to outsource your ad operations. This is because you’ll likely be dealing with a whole laundry list of media buyers, ad networks, ad exchanges and so on — which gets to be tedious and overwhelming in the programmatic advertising ecosystem.

What Can You Realistically Afford?

As you know, hiring people costs money — and there’s a huge difference between hiring someone or a small team for a one-off project versus hiring ongoing employees. Therefore, you’ll need to take into consideration what you can realistically afford on an ongoing basis if you’re thinking about going the in-house ad ops route. Economically speaking, can you take on the expenses that come with paying someone else or a team of people for six months to a year and more?

If you only garner seasonal traffic right now, or don’t have a stable revenue stream, you do have the option of hiring a freelancer or two for part-time work. Even if you do have a stable revenue stream, you may not be able to take on full-time in-house employees just yet. This is when you would choose to outsource your ad ops to a specialist. 

Of course, if you’re generating a solid and steady revenue and can afford regular employees working as your in-house ad ops team, then you can go ahead and start hiring. Just be sure to hire the right people — as in individuals that are experienced in managing ad operations and have a good track record of increasing publishers’ ad revenue.

Do You Need a Managed Service?

Managed services and outsourcing are two separate things, although the terms are often used interchangeably. Managed services work to carry out your add operations while also utilizing their own technology to do so. They’ll also provide you with premium demand sources, header bidding solutions, and proprietary programmatic monetization products to ramp up your ad revenue.

An outsourced ad ops partner, on the other hand, will only take care of your daily ad operations. They won’t provide you with solutions or products — they just handle the preparation and delivery of your programmatic and direct media.

If you’re a small or mid-sized publisher working with a more traditional setup, such as a waterfall setup, it’s better to go for a managed service provider. However, you can still have an in-house ad ops expert that oversees your ad operations and works with the managed service provider to delegate certain tasks, such as bringing in premium demand to your website.

For larger publishers, it’s better to hire an in-house ad ops team to handle all of these things on-site.

How Many Partners Do You Currently Work With?

When you’re a small-time publisher, you tend to work with fewer demand partners. However, when your website isn’t associated with a lot of demand partners, you have less work when it comes to vendor management, inventory management, and any other technical operations that would apply to larger publishers. 

If this sounds like your current situation, than any extra resourced you have — i.e., hired ad ops people — will become underutilized and a waste of money. So, if you’re only working with a handful of demand partners, it’s better to forgo the in-house team and an outsourced ad ops team. 

In this instance, it’s better to talk with your demand partners directly and ask how they typically manage ad ops for the other publishers they work with. There’s no guarantee that all of the demand partners you work with do manage ad ops for their partners, but if they do, you can ask what they normally charge and see if you can work out a deal.

In the other instance where you have a lot of demand partners to keep track of, you’ll need a solution for managing your ad campaigns, analytics reporting to advertisers, scheduling ads, and so on. This is when it’s best to have a dedicated in-house ad ops team.

What Does Your Traffic Pattern Look Like?

Your traffic pattern is a very important indicator of what’s needed for your ad operations. If you own and run a website that’s geo-specific, then your traffic pattern will be cyclical. In other words, your traffic will be higher during the day and lower at night since it’ll revolve around users’ daytime activities.

Of course, if something goes wrong with your website during the daylight hours that typically see the most activity, it will cause a bigger loss compared to the same problem occurring in the middle of the night. If you receive global traffic, then it doesn’t matter when something goes wrong because there will always be an equivalent potential for ad revenue loss.

When it comes to geo-specific websites, you can opt to hire a smaller in-house ad ops team to manage your site during peak user activity hours. However, if you can leave your ad operations unattended because your traffic is consistently high, then you’ll want an ad ops team that’s there for 24-hour support. In this case, you’ll want an outsourced ad-ops team that has all the necessary tools and resources to manage your daily ad operations.

Are You Able to Find the Right People?

One of the biggest obstacles in building an in-house ops team is finding the right people for the job. This means people who have the right amount of experience and know-how that are also capable of working seamlessly with your other hires. 

Fortunately, we live in a remote-work world, which is a bonus when you’re running a website as remote employees can save you a lot of money. This is because you don’t have to hire within your own city, state, or country. Therefore, you can easily outsource your ad operations without too much trouble — as long as you can attract the right talent.

However, if you plan to run your website business through an office space, you’ll need to consider whether or not you can find the right talent for the job within your area that is also willing to work in an office versus from home. Although, now, many people are willing to compromise for the hybrid working model for the right compensation.

If this is the case, you’ll need to make sure you have the advantage of ad ops professionals nearby. Otherwise, you won’t be able to produce an adequate in-house ad ops team and you’ll be forced to outsource.

Will You Need Access to AdX?

Google AdX is arguably the best demand source in the ad tech industry. Even with proprietary header bidding solutions in place, Google AdX takes over and wins the majority of programmatic auctions daily. Essentially, if you don’t have Google AdX as your demand source, you’re missing out on a big opportunity to earn more for your ad inventory.

One of the best things about Google Adx is that it can help you find preferred deals. A preferred deal is a separate channel where you can source direct demand for your ad inventory. During these deals, you can send your proposals directly to the media buyers, negotiate terms, and sign off on those terms. 

This gives your preferred media buyer early access to your premium ad inventory where they can choose to buy it or pass before you make it available in the open marketplace. This preferential treatment equates to you charging higher rates for your inventory.

Of course, you can find great deals outside of Google AdX. However, it’s highly likely that the media buyers you encounter would want to use AdX to execute the deal since it’s the platform that most media buyers use and trust. Therefore, you’re going to need access to Google AdX at some point in your ad publishing career.

It should also be noted that getting access to Google AdX isn no easy feat. Only premium publishers with traffic that reaches into the hundreds of millions can get access. However, small and mid-size publishers can still get their hands on preferred campaign deals. 

How is this possible, you ask?

By using the AdX access that their managed service providers get!

If you use a managed service provider for your daily operational needs and solutions, they can route your demands through their AdX access to bring you preferred deals and better partners.

So, if you’re a small or midsize publisher that wants to get in on preferred deals, it’s a good idea to partner with a managed service provider. Of course, if you currently generate those higher traffic numbers, then you should be able to get direct access to Google AdX.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of an In-House Ad Ops Team?

The advantages of an in-house ad ops team include the following:

  • They work directly for you, and no one else. This allows them to give you and your website (or websites) their undivided attention and efforts
  • They can help you generate and manage multiple direct deals for your website(s).
  • They can help you generate and manage your relationships with multiple demand partners

The disadvantages of an in-house team are:

  • They can be expensive as they’re considered full-time employees
  • It can be difficult to find and hire the right talent for the job
  • They don’t come with their own header bidding solutions, meaning you’ll have to work to develop them on your own.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of an Outsourced Ad Ops Team?

The advantages of an outsourced ad ops team are:

  • It doesn’t require sourcing individual talent to build a whole team
  • They’re essentially contract workers, which means you only have to pay for their services, not their employment
  • They bring their own tech solutions to the table
  • They can provide you with much-needed access to Google AdX

The disadvantages of outsourcing a team are:

  • Communication is less direct since they aren’t working with you side-by-side
  • They’ll likely be working with multiple publishers who could be seen as your competition
  • You may still require an ad ops expert to work with you on coordinating your outsourced team and other daily tasks.

Now What?

Once you’ve thought over all of the above questions — plus the advantages and disadvantages of each — you can decide how you’d like to move forward. 

If you decide to go with an in-house ad ops team, you’ll want to start putting together criteria for the type of candidates you’d want to hire. If you’re going to outsource your ad ops team, you’ll want to make a list of ad ops agencies and see how they align with your publishing and demand needs. 

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