Three Steps to Become an Agency Ad Ops Leader

Three Steps to Become an Agency Ad Ops Leader

For agencies, the biggest opportunity in Ad Ops is also the industry’s biggest challenge. It’s data. Now more than ever before, agencies are in a position to help their clients build comprehensive customer profiles, improve their targeting, and increase their reach. But this same data is causing confusion as companies across industries are figuring out how to centralize information into a cohesive marketing strategy.

“The biggest challenge that agencies face when it comes to ad operations at agencies is connecting data (points) together,” explains Angelina Eng, VP, Platform Solutions and Activation at Merkle, a performance marketing agency that specializes in optimizing customer relationships.

“From a data ingestion standpoint, we need to make sure that we’re creating the most complete optimization picture and also make sure that we’re aligning data across platforms.”

Here are three steps that Ad Operations specialists can follow to become the agency world’s most valuable strategists.

1. Think like a Data Scientist

Perceived as ‘backroom’ operators who create tags and manage Excel spreadsheets, Ad Ops specialists are often hidden from the limelight of the agency world. But these ‘behind-the-scenes’ practitioners are master executors with unparalleled knowledge in regards to metrics and data. Plain and simple, Ad Ops leaders understand what’s working, what isn’t working, and have the numbers to support it.“Ad Ops professionals are tech consultants who understand attribution modeling,” says Eng. “We also help creative teams execute and optimize their ideas.”

One of the most important steps that an Ad Ops specialist can take, according to Eng, is to think like a data scientist – to analyze patterns, uncover optimization opportunities, and help multiple agency teams establish the right long-term vision.

Three Steps to Become an Agency Ad Ops Leader 4I like to call my team the plumbers because they are always trying to figure out and fix the piping in our ecosystem,” says Eng. “They need to leverage data and logic to connect multiple systems together. With respect to the traffic and information that we’re passing through our ad servers, there’s a lot of information that needs to be parsed.”

The bottom line? Data is a strategic asset, and there is a strong opportunity for Ad Ops teams to make more out of the information that they’re collecting and managing.

2. Act as a Business Advisor

Ad Ops specialists bring a very interesting perspective to the agency world. These teams may not be client facing, but they know the intricacies of every single campaign. Just as they are the gatekeepers of important data, Ad Ops teams also know how everything operates, can identify potential sources of weakness, and have track records of finding creative solutions to pain points.

“Agencies with strong Ad Ops teams are able to innovate more and gain more insights,” says Eng. “In addition to delivering more value to clients, agencies that listen to their Ad Ops teams will make better assessments from a business strategy perspective.”

Agency leaders need to empower Ad Ops specialist to become integral advisors within their organizations for account teams, sales and executives, giving them a forum to express their observations, thoughts, and ideas. But this process is often easier said than done.

“Often times they are the ones that are not in front of the client so they do not get the level of visibility that most other people within an agency do,” says Eng. “They’re also not the most vocal in team meetings. You need to make sure that there’s a dedicated team in place, and ensure that information travels across the organization,” says Eng.

3. Prioritize Professional Education

To drive innovation, in addition to having a strong agency perspective, Ad Ops leaders need to master what’s happening within the advertising industry at large.

The IAB Digital Ad Operations Certification program can give emerging leaders the resources and empowerment that they need to reach their full potential. Eng, who is also a member of the IAB Certification Committee that helps to structure the program explains that the Certification is valuable for three reasons. First, “IAB Certification establishes a common, industry-wide knowledge base and foundation. It helps emerging Ad Ops leaders think creatively about their roles. And finally, “The program gives C-Suite teams more confidence in their organization’s capabilities and skills.”

“For agencies especially, the IAB Certification helps optimize knowledge within an organization,” says Eng. “An industry-wide foundation and common core curriculum is a must.”

IAB Digital Ad Operations Certification - Info SessionLearn more about IAB Digital Ad Oprtatons Certification at