Advertising Technology

AdMonsters’ Rob and Gavin on Digital Strategists, Viewability and The New Normal

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Rob Beeler is Content Czar of AdMonsters, and Gavin Dunaway is U.S. Editor at AdMonsters, the global community of ad operations and technology leaders, providing ad operations conferences and events, content, training and consulting. The Makegood recently spoke with Rod and Gavin about what drives AdMonsters’ community, ad operations, and topics worth cheerleading.

The Makegood: Rob and Gavin, how do you approach covering ad operations topics on your site and your events?

RB: A couple of thoughts. First, what I’m focused on at AdMonsters is the community we’ve built over the past 13 years. I don’t think of us as an events company or a digital advertising news site. Our conferences and our site are just ways we try to help serve the community. The community drives what we cover and a lot of what we write about is with their help or on their behalf. In an industry that LOVES to talk about itself, I’m looking for the most meaningful conversations to move things forward, not just generate page views.

Second, while the phrase “ad operations” is the one most associated with AdMonsters, I like to think of our group as “digital strategists”. The role of ad operations has grown and while trafficking of ads may be on someone’s plate, they are often the people that get pulled into a conference room to help lay out a data strategy or explain the LumaScape slide…again.

GD: After two years as senior editor of ad tech blog Adotas, I was listless. The press releases that flooded my inbox every day  began to all look the same – each technology company promising some solution that would revolutionize the industry. I started to wonder – does this stuff actually work? Who actually uses these tools? Just then I ran into Rob at yet another conference and he had an intriguing answer: ad ops.

Ad ops is certainly where AdMonsters began, but the company has evolved to mirror the journey of operations professionals into increasingly prominent roles at publishers, agencies and even brands. Our events are designed to appeal to the people manning the dashboards as well as developing and improving revenue strategies, partnerships, internal workflow, etc. We provide a forum for learning, discussion and, yes, often times commiseration. In ad tech, the guys in the trenches today are likely to be the generals of tomorrow; however, the generals of today still should be keeping up with the latest weaponry.

As for articles, I have a magazine background so I’m delighted to write feature-style stories on the big trends. My approach is simple and effective – look at the latest circling buzzword and ask, “What does that mean – in English?” As an industry we toss around a lot of terms without really understanding what they mean – even seemingly simple terms like programmatic (not just RTB!). It’s my job to figure out what we’re actually talk about (the tangible, often obscured) and then its current and potential effects. I’ll save the cheerleading for someone else.

The Makegood: What inspires you the most in today’s world of advertising operations/digital strategy?

GD: I’m a sucker for the underdog, and in digital advertising, publishers definitely have the makings of a come-from-behind story. (OK, maybe I cheerlead a little…) Exiting the age of ad networks (finally), we see pubs retaking the reigns on inventory monetization, developing complex and unique products, leveraging audience data and even becoming media buyers for their clients in the case of audience extension. The term “programmatic premium” is mainly derived from supply-side efforts to more efficiently and adeptly sell the goods.  After years of domination by the buy side, the “native advertising” movement is placing pubs front and center in the digital mediascape – they’re not just thinking beyond the banner, but actually executing.

However, if pubs end up taking the higher ground, I might have to start rooting for agencies because there’s a growing threat of marginalization on the horizon – on the creative side by pubs with stellar native advertising/branded content initiatives and on the media buying side by programmatic experimenters like Kellogg’s and Mondelez.

RB: People don’t go to school for ad operations. Instead they fall into the job typically. Often they find themselves working long hours with a slough of complicated issues and little reward. The amazing part to me – and why I care so much for these people – is that they keep going. I stumbled into ad operations and I was about a week into it before I realized the job sucked. Instead of quitting, I spent all my time trying to improve my job by automating it or streamlining it. Others who think the same way inspire me to try and help them do the same thing.

The Makegood: Rob, as Vice President of Content and Media, you develop content for events, research papers and the website. Could you give us an innovative best practice example in Ad Operations that other companies can learn from?

RB: Whether you are a digital strategist or not, everyone is in sales and everyone is in management even if all you are trying to do is sell your own ideas or manage your boss.

The Makegood: Gavin, you recently have been at the viewability panel discussion at the Digital Brand Forum. What key messages can you share with our readers?

GD: Viewability is a highly divisive issue. Yes, advertisers and agencies say they’re willing to pay more to get a sense of how many of their ads are actually seen, and there seems to be great revenue potential for publishers (particularly premium ones). But from what we understand, the current technology has proved inconsistent and expensive. And Jeffrey Mayer of WhitePages.com recently posited a good argument against viewable impressions bringing in more revenue for pubs. Also, there’s controversy concerning the 3MS’s goal switching from a “served” standard to a “viewable” one, especially when current tech offerings have diverse methods of measuring viewability. Oh, and iFrames tend to wreak havoc (though one company says it has a solution).

Long story short, viewability as a standard is a ways off – this time next year, 3MS may have an acceptable definition. However, wise pubs are already adding viewability as a quality metric to win new business or just add a perk for current clients. Fortunately, we got a couple of smart cookies from both sides of the fence that are going to duke it out – UM’s Mitch Weinstein and Blogher’s David Rowley. But that’s only viewable at OPS Markets, April 4 in NYC.

The Makegood: On April 4, AdMonsters will host ‘OPS Markets NY 2013’, a unique, one-day conference for digital advertising leaders in the data-driven media marketplace. What can visitors expect to learn at this event?

GD: I really like the title for Hearst CRO Kristine Welker’s opening keynote: “The New Normal.” This industry always seems to be in great flux, but when I look at the sessions featured at OPS Markets, I see an ecosystem that is growing increasingly confident in how it manages data and programmatic channels – in terms of both marketing effectiveness and revenue optimization. I think attendees will be pleased to learn that after years of rapid innovation and uncertainty, the industry is finally keeping pace with the speed of technological progress. I hope it’s a morale booster – man, I really do sound like a cheerleader. Better get the pom-poms out of storage.

The Makegood: Thanks, Rob and Gavin.

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