Solving the ad operations debate

Let's face it: Digital advertising execution is getting more complicated by the nanosecond. What started more than a decade ago with simply passing a static image to a website's sales team to be hard-coded to a web page has become a much more complicated process with multiple groups and various touch points involved. 

Nowadays, ad operations teams have to understand complexities that go way beyond just their ad server's core functionality. There are web analytics systems that need tracking codes implemented, retargeting pixels, brand study script wrappers, customer relationship management (CRM) tools, dynamic creative generators, semantic websites, real-time bidding platforms, rich media, etc. And, of course, it always seems these elements come together at the last minute. Your ad ops teams have to be well versed in multiple tools and processes in order to operate in today's world.

Outsourced ad operations companies provide their clients with services that go well beyond just getting ads onto the web. Most are able to completely take over your reporting, optimization, and strategic planning needs. Many companies also provide even more partnership-level services that include helping publishers analyze their ad inventory, fine tune their offerings, and bring them to market.

Certain ad ops companies may even be able to act as an agency on an advertiser's behalf to plan and buy digital media. Having an experienced consultant on your side to walk you through these rather complex challenges can be incredibly beneficial.

So, the question becomes: Do you keep these teams in-house or utilize one of the various outsource companies to handle your ad ops duties?

For many publishers, agencies, and direct advertisers, keeping an in-house ad ops team is critical to their success. They have the business infrastructure to support this initiative, and the savings associated with keeping operations internal may completely offset the need to move these duties elsewhere. And there certainly are benefits to having your own ad ops group just a few feet away. They are 100 percent dedicated and fully focused on your business, so the care and attention can be monitored and maintained. Outsourcing may also add an extra communication layer between the sales/account teams and the ad ops team; any changes and issues can be addressed quickly if the operations are kept in-house.

However, not every company can or wants to support its ad operations. If the business ebbs and flows, having a full-time team (with benefits and vacation days) can become a financial liability if employees are on the clock with nothing to do. If ad ops are viewed as something outside a company's core competency, it may make sense to bring in specialists whose sole business is staying on top of the ever-changing world of digital media marketing execution. It's also worth considering than an outsourced ad ops company may have the buying power to secure technology and vendors at a much lower rate than you could negotiate. Those savings, along with minimal trafficking issues and errors, will more than justify the bill.

Customer service is key in this niche industry. As one outsourced ad ops executive told me, "We've never lost a customer due to bad service. We know that the moment you feel like you are outsourcing, we haven't done our job, and we work closely with our clients to make sure that never happens." 

If you'd like to learn more about outsourced ad operations, check out the following companies:

Outsourced Ad Ops (OAO)
HQ: New York, N.Y.
Founded: 2003
Tag line: Making Great Impressions
Product: Various proprietary technologies and custom products.
Homepage quote: "OAO is a leading provider of around-the-clock online ad management services to both website publishers and agencies. Our clients receive unmatched quality of service from our experienced staff of ad operations professionals."
Notes: Selected by Google as one of a select few DoubleClick Certified Services Providers; selected by Google as one of its first Google Ad Manager (GAM) Certified Companies; instrumental in the launch and deployment of the system ("GAM Partner Pilot Program").
Quote: "Having a solid foundation in place on which to sell and deliver ad campaigns is a key contributor towards a company's success. Outsourced Ad Ops gets you there. Our clients receive unmatched quality of service from our experienced staff of ad operations professionals who operate in concert across all of our offices. We utilize our highly efficient process and proprietary technologies, which result in increased revenue recognition for your business," says president Craig Leshen.

Operative
HQ: New York, N.Y.
Founded: 2000
Tag line: Process is the operative word
Products: Operative Dashboard, Operative Managed Services, Operative Professional Services, Operative.One Campaign 360.
Homepage quote: "We partner with digital media companies across the globe to help them sell, deliver, and bill online advertising effortlessly. Through our unique combination of people, processes, and technology we provide end-to-end digital advertising management solutions tailored to the specific challenges of high volume transaction media."
Notes: Ranked No. 56 in the Top Companies in Software by Inc5000; offices in New York, London, Los Angeles, India, and Hong Kong.
Quote: "Becoming the leader in ad operations as measured by both size and customer satisfaction was no accident. We got here by building tools that make us easier to work with than anyone else. We've invested millions of dollars in technology, and will continue to leverage our 10 years of ad operations experience to develop technology enabled services for media organizations," says CEO and president Mike Leo.

Theorem
HQ: Chatham, N.J.
Founded: 2002
Tag line: Measurably superior online media operations
Products: Theorem Analytics, Creatives on Tap
Homepage quote: "Theorem, a premier global solutions provider, serves leading publishers, networks, agencies through best in class digital creative services, media operations, campaign reporting and analytics."
Notes:  Red Herring 100 winner (North America); campaign partner to many of the top holding companies, search engines, and ad servers; servicing more than 100 clients globally.
Quote: "As more media spend migrates online, companies will be looking at scale, efficiencies, and standards. Metrics and thought processes that are in place in traditional media will also start to take shape in digital marketing," says founder and CEO Jay Kulkarni.

Josh Dreller is VP of media technology and analytics for Fuor Digital.

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Comments

Jennifer Hanks
Jennifer Hanks March 30, 2010 at 9:16 AM

Yes Chris - AdMonsters Consulting does independent reviews. You may want to check out our upcoming webcast on outsourcing as well. www.admonsters.com

Christopher Cloney
Christopher Cloney March 29, 2010 at 10:55 AM

Great piece, Josh. Appreciate the insight and the list of vendors. Jen makes a good point below about the importance of looking before leaping. Are there firms out there that help with this kind of thing?

C

Jennifer Hanks
Jennifer Hanks March 29, 2010 at 9:32 AM

As I see it the best of both worlds can be achieved by understanding what parts of the process can be outsourced and having a solid plan in place to manage the outsourced operations.

It's useful to have a dialog with the outsourcers to understand what they offer, but make sure the discovery is client rather than vendor led as far as needs assessment and planning. Too many companies haven't taken the time to review their processes, carefully evaluated trade offs, and planned around this.

Jen Hanks, VP, Professional Services, AdMonsters