This past Autumn, I hit 20 years in ad operations. I’ve either doing operations or talking about operations at one of my events for two decades. It’s hard to know how to react to that fact: is that amount of ad ops time worthy of praise or pity? I think both reactions are valid. On one hand, I feel like I found an occupation where I’m continually solving puzzles. On the other hand, twenty years is too long a time to work on a puzzle where the pieces keep changing size and shape. Frankly, I would have thought we’d be further along as an industry than we are at this point.
Twenty years does however help give perspective on where we need to focus as 2019 unfolds. I agree that there is a lot of doom and gloom, but there are reasons for optimism and good reasons for moving forward in ad operations. Not sold on that statement? Here’s my evidence:
Read the articles on WNIP and one pattern is clear: all the issues relate to operations. Long ago, companies hired armies of sales people to go out and pitch their company’s wares. Sales people haven’t and won’t go away, but companies know they can’t sell themselves to profitability without operational excellence. Sales if anything is becoming more consultative and operational in nature. Selling programmatically isn’t selling deal by deal – it’s selling the piping. The best sales people understand the importance of operations.
There’s no playbook unless that playbook is how to collectively worsen our lot. You’ll hear a theme emerging in my video podcasts with Matthew Goldstein: everyone is finding ways to increase impressions and therefore lowering the overall value of those impressions. It’s called the tragedy of the commons and to follow the herd will lead to future disaster. Instead, you need to zig where everyone else zags. If you are in operations, you are sitting in a key spot to help figure that out for your company
If you agree with my two theories – things are becoming more operationally focused over time, and publishers need to differentiate – one would assume more publishers would be investing in their operations team. Anecdotally speaking, publishers that invest in engineers and operations are building companies that have long term futures. I actually think it’s still best to invest in the people more than the technology. The automation of the operational tasks is not there and even when it arrives, someone is going to have to manage the machines.
It’s this belief that guides my business today. Sure, I write and speak about the tech, but I’m more focused on the people. I run an ad tech mentorship program. My site has a career development section where we talk about things like becoming an ad ops consultant. My events always include a session on creating career paths in ad ops or learning to become an ad ops manager.
On February 28th, I’ll have an event in London focused on peer-to-peer discussions to not only talk about the tech/operational challenges we collectively face, but how to think about a career in ad operations.
I’m not saying you’ll be (or want to be) in ad operations for twenty years, but the skills you learn in ad operations are going to apply the rest of your life. That’s investing in the future.
Click here for full details of the London Rev Op Exchange event on 28th February, Covent Garden
Rob Beeler @rbeeler
As Chairman of AdMonsters and Founder of Beeler.Tech, Rob has 20+ years in digital media and ad tech. He provides guidance to the industry through training, consulting, events and research.