The Perfectionist’s Guide To Ad Operations: Part 2

Blog   |   Operative Team   |   September 15, 2014

Nobody ever said that managing hundreds of campaigns across dozens of systems is easy.  We’re not saying that either. In fact, guaranteeing successful delivery across all of your campaigns is so difficult and cumbersome, that publishers who simply hit their impression goals are often at a significant advantage over those that don’t.  But we’re here to help you find the time to do more, to be proactive, to dig deeper and deliver better.

Say you’re an ad ops director whose campaigns have all launched smoothly and without error. Congratulations. Now it’s time to monitor those campaigns, ensure that they deliver as promised, and most importantly, optimize them for success.

(If your campaigns have not all launched smoothly, you probably missed The Perfectionist’s Guide to Ad Operations, Part 1. We recommend you start there.)

If you have implemented some or all of the tips from Part 1, that’s a good start. Now you are ready to really maximize your team’s potential.

It’s not magic.  Just a few simple steps that can help your team to stay better organized and focused on what really matters – helping your clients.  These tips for campaign management and optimization will help you not only retain happy clients but also collect more revenue.

Step 1: Analyze Reports

You have already set your ad server and/or ad business management system to deliver automated reports (per the last step in Part 1). Now is the time to compare those reports to your booked goals. (Tip: you can include the book goal as a metric in your reports, to save yourself from having to go back and forth between the reports and the IO.)

There are four types of reports you should reference on a daily basis:

  1. Delivery (total lifetime history of impressions)
  2. Pacing (health of campaign compared to the IO)
  3. Inventory (remaining available inventory)
  4. 3rd Party (discrepancy reports)

From these reports, you need to calculate the probability that you will hit your goals. You’ll be able to see exactly where each campaign stands as of that moment.

The best way to do this by using an automated system — we use AdJuster — or a service to flag potential issues. You can do it manually in spreadsheets, but that’s how things slip through the cracks and end up harming your business. Our general rule: stay out of Excel.

Armed with all of this knowledge, you want to set up an action plan to run a successful campaign.  The first step is simply making sure that there are no critical business issues with the campaign.  We aren’t perfect either – errors occur.  Give your team the chance to catch any potential issues before your client does. We double-QA, pull screenshots, and pull reports.  It’s a lot of work – but it’s worth it!

Step 2: Monitor and Manage Campaigns

Assuming that your reports call for campaign adjustments, (if they don’t, you can skip to step 4, and please send us your contact info so that we can send you a celebratory ecard), find a way to prioritize which campaigns deserve your closest attention. Try filtering based on client spend or by end date.

This is where your knowledge of server rankings and client KPIs comes in handy. You should also pull out that document we created in Part 1, with the clearly defined yield management protocols and client trafficking processes.

You know what you have to work with, you know what your client wants, now you have to make it happen.

Depending on the technology that you’re using to serve these campaigns, know the options that you have available for managing over- or under-delivering campaigns. Each case is going to be specific, depending on which KPI you are looking to boost. Of course, even if you feel it will give your client better performance, get their consent first.

Here are a few actions that we use to adjust campaigns:

  1. Extend Campaign Dates (The When): Keep the campaign running as long as it takes to hit its impression goal. (Be sure to check with your client before choosing this option, as their deadlines may be stricter than yours.)
  2. Boost Pacing Priority (The How Often): Give it a higher priority than other campaigns OR lower the frequency cap, if there is one. (When dealing with priority, you must ensure that lines from other campaigns with the same targeting will not be sacrificed. Be cautious of overdoing it, and remember your server and inventory confines.)
  3. Reallocate Impressions (The Where): Move the impressions to a higher-performing area of the site, maintaining the same end date and overall impression goal. (Make sure that this is within your contracted deal.)

When managing campaigns, sometimes you have to rob Peter to pay Paul. Just make sure that the transaction is well-documented and that any stolen inventory is reallocated as soon as possible.


Step 3: Determine Client KPIs

What’s most important to your client? Hint: It’s not getting 100,000 impressions. Why are they running the campaign with you? Who are their key demographics? Are they looking to spread brand awareness or drive actions? Every client has different needs, and you should be aware of those when working to optimize their campaigns.

If your client doesn’t know what’s most important to them, advise them. You’re the expert. Offering knowledge instills trust and mutual respect, and the conversation will allow you to learn more about your client’s business needs so that you can continue to offer value in the future.


Step 4: Optimize Campaign

Everything up until now has been about mitigating risk, meeting contractual goals, and correcting performance. These are short-term fixes, they’re not about longevity of relationships. Premium ad operations are in high demand – simply meeting an impression goal is not sufficient for maintaining profitable partnerships with brands. Optimization is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it’s a ‘need to have.’


Make a list of your client’s high value metrics, such as:

  • Clickthrough
  • Conversion
  • Video Completion
  • Actions
  • Audience Segment Delivery

Then, look at actions that can be used to increase those metrics, and reallocate based on where you are getting best performance. For example, are certain creatives performing better? Would it make sense to switch from rotational to sequential ads? Check traffic-shaping audience patterns – is there a higher clickthrough or video completion rate on the homepage in the afternoon? Once you know this, you can reallocate creatives and impressions based on your client’s desired metrics.

Step 5: Create Client Reports

Now that you have completed a fully optimized campaign, it’s time to show your client the proof. Whether you were able to optimize or not, you need to make sure you provide a full campaign delivery report for your advertisers at the end of each campaign and at the end of each month. Brands don’t just want to hear that their campaigns delivered in full, you need to provide them with information that proves the value of their investment. Your reports should include clicks, conversions, creative usage, timing, etc. Give your clients clear insight into how the campaign worked well and how it can be done even better next time. Always keep them coming back for more.


Why We’ve Shared This With You

When companies tell us they can’t figure out why their ad operations are unprofitable, we ask them what their daily workflow is like. The answers we hear range from “I don’t know,” to “It depends,” to “We don’t have one.”

Our goal is to help you run a more profitable advertising business. We believe that starts by implementing a standardized and strategic process for operations.

Operative has been in the business of ad operations for 14 years. We have witnessed the ongoing transition from print to digital, the exponential growth of ad servers and delivery systems, and the continued increase in product complexity. Our people have tried and tested every style of ad operations workflow, pulling successful methods from hundreds of “best” practices to come up with even better ones.

Our teams have perfected the process, and now we’re offering it to you.

Taking The First Step Towards Profitable Ad Ops

It takes a group effort to start putting these steps into place. No one person can make an organizational impact without creating buy-in across their entire team. These steps are focused on doing things simply, and doing things right.  Ultimately, it requires a cultural shift away from tolerating underperformance.

At Operative, we never tolerate underperformance. That’s why the world’s top publishers and agencies partner with us.

We hope that this guide will lead you down a path to premium ad operations. If you find you don’t have the bandwidth to execute it all on your own, feel free to give us a call.


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And be sure to check out our other ebook, A Guide To Generating Revenue Through Ad Ops


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