Ad Operations (Ad Ops) is a field that people outside the digital advertising industry aren’t often familiar with. A quick explanation I’ve used is “we run digital marketing campaigns for large advertisers,” which can prompt a variety of follow ups: do you sell ads? Design websites? Build the ads? The answers to all of which is no. So what does Ad Ops do?
In short, at a company like DataXu, Ad Ops takes the order and insights from clients to build the parameters for an ad campaign that meets their needs. Once a campaign launches, we evaluate how well we’re meeting client goals, and modify details of a campaign to improve performance.
As a wise friend once told me, “if you’re failing to plan, you’re planning to fail,” so in part one of this two-part series giving you a behind-the-scenes look at Ad Ops, we’ll take a look at how to set up a campaign for success before we deliver a single impression.
Before Campaign Launch
1. Clearly define your goals.
What is “success” to your client? If they’re looking at branding or website visits, you’ll be optimizing toward CTR (click through rates), but is there a specific rate the client expects? Viewability is an increasingly popular goal, but high viewability doesn’t necessarily mean a high CTR, CPA (cost per acquisition), or return on advertising spend, and methods that help a campaign hit one goal might hurt its ability to hit another. Is there an exact number an advertiser is looking to hit in terms of CPA? Is the client running with multiple partners on the same campaign to see which does best, and if so what are the criteria for success the client is looking for? Clearly articulated goals help the entire team set up for success.
2. Set expectations with everyone.
The client. Your team. Yourself. What turnaround time does a campaign have to launch? It takes time to set up a campaign correctly and think through all options. For now, Ad Ops is still (mostly) comprised of humans, and sometimes humans make mistakes. The likelihood of oversight increases when speed is prioritized over process. So if there’s a specific launch date, work backwards to set deadlines. If it’s “ASAP,” communicate a launch time based on when all paperwork and assets are received. Are there campaign goals that seem unrealistic or contradictory? Are there limitations to current technology or compatibility for which we’ve got workarounds? Communicating realistic restrictions helps everyone not only set up for success, but also helps assure the client and your team that they’re in good hands.
It may seem redundant given #2, but it bears repeating. Talk to your team, ask questions, listen to responses. After a call or conversation, recap the discussion in writing to make sure all deadlines, next steps, and project owners are understood. The more you can do to keep the people involved in your success in the loop, the more opportunity the entire team has to thrive.
4. Pixel early!
One big advantage to running programmatic ad campaigns is the ability to track and target users based on previous behaviors and site visits. This ability comes in part from creating individual pixels which the client can place on their sites, and based on those pixel fires, DataXu’s system can generate learnings to help us build audiences which can later be retargeted. The more time a pixel has to record data, the larger the audience will be by the time the campaign is ready to launch.
5. Quality Assurance.
Before sending your campaign out for a peer review, or out to sales to confirm the setup is in line with client goals, or to management to make sure all budgets are set correctly, take a break, and double check your own work. A programmatic ad campaign with 10 flights is going to have hundreds of moving pieces, and no one is going to know it better than the Ad Ops lead on the account. Save time in the review process by giving yourself a chance to catch any last questions or issues.
While this list isn’t exhaustive by any means, these tips should help your campaign get off to a good start. Check out part two of this series, where we take a look at how to ensure your campaign is running successfully.
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