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Burn Out in Ad Operations


By far, the most over worked, under-appreciated, misunderstood resource in any online company is the ad trafficker. This is a job that can transform the most intelligent, rational, motivated and conscientious individual into a high-strung, irritable, error-prone employee. And THIS is the individual who is responsible for taking every bit of revenue your sales group generates and making sure it delivers as promised, on time, with accurate reporting.

So, why is the position of ad trafficker so tough? And why is this position typically neglected and mismanaged? And finally, what can be done to make this crucial role and department more rewarding to the individual and more productive to your company?

First, let’s take a look at what traffickers do. They are smart, learning and operating ad serving systems with the requisite technical knowledge needed to schedule several different versions of target ad tags. They are troubleshooters, receiving creative, sending it back, making sure it clicks as it should. They are customer service people, often interacting with their peers in agencies, at publishers, et cetera in a manner that must reflect the best interests of your company.

Unfortunately, the ad trafficker also bears the brunt of minute-to-minute problem solving. Orders are written in haste, and the trafficker is the one who needs to clarify and correct it so it can run. Creative is late, and the trafficker must make up the time and delivery. It doesn’t meet specifications and the trafficker becomes the intermediary between a confused sales person and an irate advertiser. The publisher tells the client that there is a three- to five-day turnaround time for campaigns from receipt of creative. The sales organization can demand it be turned around in an hour. The work is stressful, relentless then ultimately mind numbing. The trafficker is frequently on the low end of the pay scale, gets no commission, but is responsible for making sure that all contractual commitments are delivered as specified.

This puts a sales/ops organization in a difficult predicament. Ad traffickers are not easy to come by -- so the tendency is to keep the good ones where they are. Eventually, however, the repetition and stress outweigh the incentives to the employee and they become unmotivated, burned out and eventually leave.

So, what can be done about it?

One of the keys to keeping an ad operations organization fresh is to furnish a career path for your employees. An ad trafficker might graduate to a senior inventory analyst; or they can be put in charge of managing the development of new ad products.

If they have the mindset and make up, some can even migrate into sales and do well at it, since they know the business from the ground up.

In the meantime, while you’re keeping your current staff motivated by moving them into more challenging positions, make it a point to actively keep a pipeline open with new ad traffickers -- in fact, you might consider graduating one of your current staff to be a trainer!

Finally, recognition among peers is a highly underestimated incentive. Don’t discount “star” awards for work above and beyond the call -- with a monetary value. Engage both the sales and operations groups to create the sense that “we’re all in this together” instead of “us versus them.”

The key to keeping this valuable talent motivated is to give them something to look forward to. Furnishing recognition and a career path is vital to preventing burnout among this important resource, which after all is responsible for delivering the revenue your company lives on.

Doug Wintz began his interactive career with Prodigy in 1988. During that time, he pioneered the sales and development of online applications for automotive clients Toyota, Ford and Autobytel, brokerage firm DLJ Direct and grocers Dominick’s and D’Agostino. He led the development of one of the first online ad networks for Softbank, managed sales/operations for gamesite Uproar and recently served as VP of Digital Media Solutions for Lycos. Doug is currently founder and principle of DMW MediaWorks, a consultancy in interactive media and operations, with long-term clients that include the market leaders in online health, broadcast television, behavioral targeting and custom publishing.

Sin No. 2: Trying to do it all by yourself

Think you can just wake up one day and decide to become a publisher? Wrong. This is a deadly sin you need to avoid. You can't do it all yourself, and if you try you'll just end up making redundant mistakes that could have easily been avoided if you looped in the proper partners. How are you going to serve content consistently? There are technology companies that can help you, and bringing in content creators is a key step in establishing a strong voice right out of the gate.

Lori Schwartz, managing partner at StoryTech, explains why it's a big mistake for content-curious brands to try and go it alone.

Sin No. 3: Losing sight of what you actually know

Branded content creation (much like any kind of content creation) is about informing your audience. In order to do that, you need to have information that your audience doesn't possess. What better place to start than your own company's area of expertise? When starting out, don't throw a wide net for subjects you plan to cover; you'll only end up losing sight of what you're actually good at. Focus first on areas that you have an authority in. Establish your brand as a leader in your own wheelhouse. When enough time passes, branch out. Don't try to be good at everything right off the bat.

Doug Levy, founder and CEO of MEplusYOU, speaks to iMedia about why losing sight of your expertise is one of the biggest content marketing sins.

Sin No. 4: Recycling content onto platforms that don't make sense

Don't be lazy when it comes to content marketing. Every platform is different and each one requires tailor-made content. One of the biggest sins in this space is the practice of recycling material, especially to places that don't make sense. A lot of content on social media only works there, just as a lot of your website content would not work in other places. Customizing content for each platform and network is a key to success.

Kasey Skala, digital communications manager at Great Clips, explains why brands can't rely on a one-size-fits-all content marketing strategy.

Sin No. 5: Not understanding how high the bar is

It's easy to create content. So easy, in fact, that practically everyone is a content creator these days. The biggest downside for creative people in today's hyper-digital world is that it has created hyper-clutter. Consumers have countless options for taking in entertainment and journalism. You need to know what you're up against. What's the best way to compete in this environment? Understand your competition and focus on the exceptional quality of what you create, not the sheer quantity.

Ian Fitzpatrick, chief strategy officer at Almighty, speaks to iMedia about how you'll never gain any meaningful traction if you ignore where the bar has been set.

Sin No. 6: Not establishing a distinct personality

Content marketing isn't strictly about clicks or impressions. Mainly, your efforts are geared toward establishing a clear brand voice and identity. The tone and make-up of your content will tell your audience who you are. The content marketing undertaking is about growing a personality for your brand. The most successful brands are not faceless entities. Good or bad, each big company has an identity held by the public. Quality content will help put a good face on yours.

No one knows more about faces and personalities than Dan Hill, president of Sensory Logic. In this interview, he explains why not establishing a brand personality is one of the biggest marketing sins you can commit in this area.

Sin No. 7: Allocating a small budget to your content marketing (not going big)

Lastly, go big or go home. Content marketing is like social media marketing. It's not a one-off experiment that you can just try. For many brands, a lame attempt in these waters would be devastating. In other words, there's no such thing as "a little bit of content marketing." If you decide to go down this road, be prepared to pump major bucks into it. Content marketing is like having a child. You will need to feed and take care of it for years to come, so make sure you're adequately investing time and capital.

Stipple CRO Joseph Dumont explains why content marketing is not something to take lightly. He speaks to iMedia about how brands should prepare to invest big because the high risk may lead to a high reward.

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"Illustration of fire on dark background" and "Devil" images via Shutterstock.

  Doug Wintz is Founder and Principal of DMW MediaWorks, a consultancy specializing in digital ad operations and technology.  Since 2004, DMW MediaWorks has helped emerging companies set up their ad operations departments and...

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