Print teams, don’t be fooled by your digital ad operations colleagues’ hefty tech stacks and marketing automation tools—the brain power still lies in the people. The ad ops role requires a unique blend of technical and interpersonal skills, and is crucial to helping companies grow customers and revenue.

Demystifying Ad Operations

Ad ops teams support digital advertising strategies by using marketing technology and automation to manage, deliver and optimize ad campaigns. An ad ops team can include several different roles such as scheduling, inventory management, yield management, vendor management, billing and technical operations.

Ad ops professionals work with a variety of software to sell, serve and target digital ads, as well as report on campaign performance. Their tech stack includes ad servers, exchanges, networks, data management platforms and demand and supply-side platforms. They are accountable for generating the highest ad revenue possible while delivering an excellent customer experience for the people who see their ads online.

A Technical, Analytical Skillset

It’s crucial for ad ops professionals to stay up to date on developments within advertising services. Successful ad ops pros have technical knowledge as well as coding skills, which helps them excel at several key responsibilities including setting up ad servers, monetizing impressions and tracking bidder performance—all of which can be nuanced and complicated. They also need to stay current on data privacy regulations and other industry guidelines.

Working Across Functions and Enterprises

While ad ops staff are dedicated to scheduling tracking and reporting on campaigns, their job also involves stepping away from the screen and requires solid interpersonal skills. Ad ops professionals work side-by-side with marketers, project managers and salespeople. They also work with demand partners, which sometimes involves troubleshooting problems such as forced ad redirects or ads that are negatively impacting website load speed. Ad ops staff regularly have meetings with these vendors, as well as vet, test and implement new ad partners.

A Typical Workday

Ad ops professionals often begin their day by pulling a pacing report to monitor their campaigns for under-delivery or pacing issues, with a focus on the campaigns ending soonest. If a campaign isn’t performing well, they’ll make adjustments to help it reach the target spend or impression goal. They use forecasting tools to view the number of impressions available for certain targeting criteria.

“For example, if a campaign is targeted to the City of Denver but is pacing behind, an ad ops specialist would use their forecasting tool to check available inventory in the surrounding cities, and determine which would be best to add to the campaign targeting for supplemental delivery.,” explains Tiffany Kelly, Digital Product Manager at Lineup Systems. 

Forecasting and reporting are both part of an ad ops professional’s regular workload as well. They pull traffic forecasts upon request for sales reps, planners and advertisers. They also do the same for mid-campaign reports. Ad ops professionals pull data from both first and third-party servers, which includes impression and attribution metrics. They use this data to inform strategy for future ad campaigns.

An ad ops professional’s workday also includes yield management—analyzing data and optimizing inventory to maximize performance and revenue. This is a highly technical skill that takes time and consistent A/B testing to master. The goal of yield management is to allocate impressions to wherever the demand is highest, and it requires ad ops professionals to maintain a holistic view of their company’s revenue streams, as well as how they interact.

The Evolving Role of Ad Ops

The field of ad operations has shifted alongside recent trends in the media landscape, as digital ad sales investment continues to increase. According to eMarketer, digital ad spend will grow to $129 billion by 2021, which will account for a majority of all U.S. advertising investment.

Programmatic advertising now plays a significant role in ad ops professionals’ day-to-day work. They use automated software to purchase programmatic ads, which enables greater personalization of the ads’ content. Although this model offers the benefit of automation, it hasn’t let ad ops pros become idle. They’re always learning and developing their skills to be able to solve problems, and they often read industry blogs and attend conferences.

How Ad Ops Supports Publishers

With over 44% of organizations shifting toward a digital-first approach, ad operations is an increasingly important function—including in the publishing industry. Publishers’ audiences want a more personalized experience from the content they consume, and ad ops professionals help deliver this through models such as programmatic automation.

Both advertisers and publishers rely on ad ops professionals to handle the technicalities of executing campaigns and measuring their success, as well as connecting to ad exchanges and setting up direct deals. Ad ops professionals play a crucial role in helping publishers create excellent content and grow loyal audiences.