A beginner’s guide on Ad Operations

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The term “ad operations” refers to procedures and systems that support the sale and distribution of online advertisements. This typically includes everything from initial bid negotiations between publishers and advertisers to the pixel-perfect delivery of ad units.  Publishers use ad operations[4] to make sure they comply with major search engines’ and third-party ad networks’ requirements for serving ads on their websites. Ad operations often work closely with publisher[8] sales departments and IT teams to ensure that all processes run smoothly and without a hitch.

Ad Operations roles and responsibilities

There are multiple players involved in the ad operations field, each with its own unique role.

Publishers: Publishers are the companies that actually host the advertisements on their websites. They have a responsibility to their advertisers and users not to deliver illegal, fraudulent or offensive ads.

Advertisers: Advertisers are the buyers of advertising services. They buy ad inventory[9][5] from publishers and then target their advertising to specific audiences.

Networks: Ad networks are companies that facilitate the buying and selling of advertising on multiple publishers’ websites. A network serves as a middleman between advertisers and publishers, while also providing useful reporting tools for both parties.

Demand Side Platforms (DSPs): DSPs are companies which provide advertisers with automated mechanisms to buy and manage large amounts of ad impressions and other types of advertising inventory. DSPs work closely with other participants in the ad tech[10] industry, such as ad exchanges and supply side platforms (SSP[1]).

What are the objectives of Ad Operations?

Ad Operations manage the performance[6] and traffic of online advertisements. Ad Operations does not take a chance on a campaign[11]’s success. An Ad Operations team stays vigilant throughout the life of a campaign to ensure that it is performing its intended function: making money.

The objectives of Ad Operations are the following:

Distribution

Selling ads is about persuading potential advertisers to buy your inventory. You need to convince them that you have valuable ad space. This is why ad ops teams put great care into their websites’ user experience, site content, and other aspects that make a visit to their sites worthwhile. If the site’s content and layout is unappealing, visitors won’t stick around long enough to see or click on an ad. That means no money for anyone involved.

Efficiency

Ad Operations teams need to deliver advertisements quickly and efficiently. No matter how attractive a website is, nobody will stick around if they don’t load fast enough – or at all. Ad Operations is constantly negotiating with ad networks and advertisers to get the best possible ads delivered, while also working with publishers to ensure that their websites are performing optimally.

Following Regulations

Ad Operations need to abide by the rules and regulations of multiple ad networks, advertisers, publishers, and platforms. For example, they are responsible for complying with Google’s Ad Exchange[7] policies.

Monitoring

Ad Operations teams are constantly monitoring campaigns to ensure that they are performing as intended. This requires skill in data analysis so that when an ad performs poorly, even if it has high click-thru-rates (CTRs), it can be immediately identified and removed.

Optimization

Ad Operations teams are responsible for optimizing ad performance by adjusting bids, pausing poorly performing ads or targeting[12] audiences with poor engagement rates.

Best Ad Ops tools

There are many tools available to Ad Ops professionals. Here we list some of the most common and popular:

Google Analytics[2]

Google Analytics is a free web analytics tool provided by Google that tracks and reports website traffic. It offers detailed statistical analysis of visitor[13] traffic and user behavior on websites or mobile apps. This free tool has become one of the most widely used in the industry.

Adobe DTM

Adobe DTM is an online tool that provides reporting across ad, site and search activities. It gives marketers campaign insights by enabling them to view their visitor’s (leads) behavior on web pages alongside their campaigns. This helps Ad Ops track how different campaigns are performing online.

Google Ad Manager[3] (formerly DoubleClick Ad Manager)

Ad Manager is a SaaS online ad serving platform developed by Google. It allows publishers to manage their ad inventory across multiple ad networks via one user interface. Although it’s free for smaller web publishers, large publishers pay a fee to use the platform.

SimilarWeb

Similarweb is a digital intelligence platform that provides web analytics services and offers its users information on their clients’ and competitors’ web traffic and performance.

So, when do you need an Ad Operations Team?

It’s important to have a dedicated Ad Operations team when you have a large online presence with a high-volume of web traffic. This is because, as mentioned above, poor website performance can result in wasted ad spend. The larger the publisher’s site and campaign inventory, the more complex their advertising strategies become. When this happens it can be difficult to manage a campaign in an efficient and effective manner. This is where a dedicated ad operations team can help.

However, even smaller publishers who have a limited online presence should consider hiring an Ad Ops professional or outsourcing their Ad Operations to a third-party company. This is because even small web publishers with little web traffic still generate ad inventory which can be managed more efficiently by an ad ops team.

This is especially true since the digital advertising industry is evolving so rapidly that new strategies need to be created on a regular basis. These strategies are often extremely complex, making it difficult for publishers without an Ad Ops team to keep up with all of their ever-changing needs. Freestar is an excellent option for those looking to bolster their online advertising endeavours with the right help and expertise.

Ad Ops are undoubtedly important to business success and efficiency.  Ad Ops teams are important because they can help campaigns operate as intended, helping publishers maximize revenue generation through ad inventories.

Terms
1. Supply-Side Platform [SSP] ( SSP ) A technology platform that provides outsourced media selling and ad network management services for publishers. The business model resembles that of an ad network in that it aggregates ad inventory, however they serve publishers exclusively and do not provide services for advertisers (e.g., FreeWheel, SpotX).
2. Google Analytics. This is Google’s traffic tracking and analytics tool that gives publishers insight into traffic origins, popular pages on their website and much more.
3. Google Ad Exchange ( Google Ad Manager ) Ad Exchange is often referred to as the premium version of AdSense, and also a Google-owned ad network of sorts. To join Ad Exchange, publishers need to meet specific requirements such as 500 000 minimum monthly traffic, be invited or join through a Google certified partner. Recently Google has rebranded this product, and it is now called Google Ad Manager.
4. ad operations. Ad Operations refers to processes and systems that support the sale and delivery of online advertising. More specifically this is the workflow processes and software systems that are used to sell, input, serve, target and report on the performance of online ads.
5. ad inventory. Ad Inventory refers to the number of ad impressions available for sale on a publisher’s website or mobile app. In other words, these are the commodities available for the advertisers to buy on the website.

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