What is ad ops?

by Winston Francois

Ad Operations, aka Ad Ops, is the area of digital advertising responsible for managing and optimizing online ad campaigns. These teams ensure that ads reach the right audience at the right time and through the right channels, managing the technical and business side of advertising operations.

Ad Ops bridges the gap between advertisers looking to promote their products and publishers seeking to monetize their content. Ad Ops teams navigate complex technology platforms to ensure the seamless execution of ad campaigns, maintain the ad serving systems, and optimize ad performance to maximize revenue and ROI.

The Fundamentals of Ad Ops

At its core, Ad Ops supports online advertising sales and delivery. Its essential functions revolve around planning, setting up, managing, and optimizing ad campaigns. This includes handling ad servers, programmatic advertising platforms, data management platforms, and reporting tools. 

The Evolution of Ad Ops 

One thing is for sure – Ad Ops has dramatically evolved from the early days of simple banner ads to the data-driven, programmatic ecosystem we see today. With the introduction of real-time bidding, automated ad exchanges, and advanced targeting options, Ad Ops has become a dynamic field that continuously adapts to new technologies and changing market trends.

Key Players

Let’s take a look at who’s involved. There are advertisers who want to promote their products, publishers who offer ad inventory, ad networks that aggregate this inventory, ad exchanges that facilitate the buying and selling, and tech vendors that provide the tools and platforms for these transactions. The Ad Ops team acts as the tactical force that ensures all these players work together seamlessly to achieve the best results.

The Ad Ops Process

Campaign Planning and Strategy

The Ad Ops process begins with campaign planning and strategy, identifying campaign goals, target audiences, and suitable ad formats. During this phase, Ad Ops teams work closely with advertisers to understand their objectives and with publishers to understand the available inventory and how best it can be leveraged.

Ad Trafficking and Implementation

Once a campaign is planned, Ad Ops specialists focus on ad trafficking – the technical setup of ad campaigns on ad servers and platforms. This stage involves configuring campaign specifics, including targeting parameters, frequency caps, and budget pacing. Ad Ops teams must meticulously implement these details to ensure the campaign launches without a hitch.

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Monitoring and Optimization

After campaign launches, Ad Ops teams monitor performance closely, making adjustments to optimize for better outcomes. Optimization can involve changing targeting, adjusting bid strategies, or reallocating budgets across channels or creatives to improve campaign performance against KPIs.

Reporting and Analysis

Ad Ops teams collect data on ad performance, analyze it, and generate reports for stakeholders. These reports provide insights into what is and isn’t working, driving strategic decisions for current and future campaigns.

The Role of Ad Ops Teams

Ad Ops teams typically have a hierarchical structure with a mix of roles, from entry-level ad traffickers to senior campaign managers and directors who oversee operations. Each member plays a specific role, but all have to thoroughly understand the ad tech stack and the digital advertising workflow.

Cross-Team Collaboration 

Ad Ops teams collaborate extensively with sales teams to understand client needs, marketing teams for brand messaging, and tech teams for implementing and troubleshooting the tech stack. This cross-functional coordination is vital for the smooth running of ad operations.

Skill Sets and Tools

Ad Ops requires unique skills, including technical know-how, analytical ability, and strategic foresight. Team members should be familiar with ad-serving technologies, programmatic platforms, and data analysis tools, and have a firm grasp of the digital advertising ecosystem. 

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) 

Identifying and tracking the right KPIs is essential for assessing the effectiveness of Ad Ops strategies. These may include click-through rates (CTR), conversion rates, cost per acquisition (CPA), viewability scores, and overall ROI. Ad Ops teams can continually refine their approaches to improve campaign performance by focusing on these metrics.

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Continuous learning and adaptability in Ad Ops

The advertising technology landscape is in constant flux, which requires Ad Ops professionals to be lifelong learners and highly adaptable. They must stay on top of industry trends, platform updates, and consumer behavior shifts to maintain the effectiveness of their advertising strategies.

Ad Ops in Programmatic Advertising

Ad Operations play a pivotal role in the world of programmatic advertising, which automates the buying and selling of online ad space. Programmatic platforms ensure ads reach the intended audience at optimal times and prices through advanced algorithms and historical data.

Real-time bidding (RTB) 

Real-time bidding advertising buys and sells inventory on a per-impression basis via programmatic instantaneous auction – similar to financial markets. Ad Ops teams set up the bid parameters, manage the bid strategy, and analyze outcomes to inform future bids. They should be skilled at working with Demand-Side Platforms (DSPs) and understand the nuances of how RTB can affect the success of campaigns.

Direct and Programmatic Deal Setups

Ad Ops teams play a major role in both direct deals with publishers and programmatic deals through platforms. They ensure that the terms of direct deals are faithfully executed and monitor the performance of programmatic deals, adjusting strategies as needed. Ad Ops professionals must understand the specific requirements and ensure that campaigns are set up to meet these needs while maximizing efficiency and ROI.

So, what we’re saying is…

Without Ad Ops teams’ strategic and tactical work, online advertising campaigns would lack the precision, efficiency, and effectiveness that brands and publishers rely on for success.

By investing in robust Ad Ops teams, companies can ensure their advertising efforts are as impactful and cost-effective as possible, driving growth in an increasingly competitive online space.

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