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.