Ad Technologists – They’re the Magicians in the Moments

I’m doing a TON of Live Virtual events these days. How to navigate this weird and wonderful working world is a hot topic, and I have a LOT to say.

Today I went to my past and spent an hour with members of the Ad Operations community. These people are the folks behind the scenes of the brands and media outlets you know and love that make all the advertising show up the way it’s supposed to show up.

Before you vilify these people and say things like “I hate advertising!” or “Privacy!” I want to gently remind you that (usually) the content you are looking at you get to look at for free. Don’t want ads? Pay for the content. Want free content? The creators need to get paid somehow. Plus, let’s be real here. You have ABSOLUTELY purchased something you’ve seen in an ad. I know I own a particularly spiffy pair of red suede heels with a feathered pom-pom on the front. I trot these lovelies out at every appropriate opportunity, and a digital ad was the catalyst. And yes, I find some of the ads annoying too.

But back to my magical friends of Ad Operations and Ad Technology. Our conversation reminded me of how the invisibility of their magic is part of what makes them magic.

  1. There isn’t an AdOps person on the planet who’s family understand what they do for a living. It’s a weird job with even weirder titles. Call someone a Psychologist, and you know what they do, call someone Director Ad Technology Operations and, most people look at you blankly. Can you imagine working in a world where the majority of people don’t know what you do? 
  2. Here’s another thing that got the room nodding – most of them have a boss who doesn’t understand what they do. Beyond, the ad is showing up on the correct page at the right time. Now I’m a big believer in having people smarter than you when you’re a manager, but this seemed a little excessive.

Most importantly, the conversations reminded me that the JOB of AdOperations is hard. And no, it’s not the technical abilities and understanding what, how, and why to implement header bidding options or the current specs of a VAST tag – those things are the skills, like knowing how to code in Python or Ruby. What’s hard about the job is the endless balance of inputs they’re trying to juggle. I’d be surprised if a day doesn’t go by when they’re asked to:

  1. Look at some new technology because it does some new neat trick or solves some weird problem. A new technology that might conflict with current code or worse has some hidden snippet embedded in the code that might expose your users.
  2. Implement a version of the product that the sales team has “already sold.” Not the product that has already been created tested and priced and is ready for activation. No, that one with just this one “tiny tweak.”  
  3. Do all of the above and more at scale and cheaper tomorrow while complexity and volume increase every day.

I’m just scratching the surface here. And if my examples make no sense, I want you to imagine you own a bakery. Your customer just asked you to swap out your oven – or add pecans, not chocolate chips, to the choc-chip cookies you have on the menu – oh, and by the way, I want to pay $2.50 per cookie today even though it was $2.75 yesterday—same thing. 

These brilliant people are magic at balancing change in every corner of their organizations, they do so while keeping a sharp eye on the bottom line. Here’s what makes them even more fabulous, this way of working and thinking is their standard operating procedure.  In any situation or industry, it’s my belief that if you throw them complexity, and they can ferret out a solution while keeping people happy and making deadlines. Seriously, magic.

Now think about your business. Can you imagine having someone who thinks like this on your team? Do they need to know the language of your business? My guess is you can teach them.

So if you’re a hiring manager and see the words “Ad Technology” or “Ad Operations” on a resume, I hope you have a better idea of what they mean. Not for what they do, but how the people who have experience in this industry think. Experience in Ad Tech implies the ability to balance change in every corner of an organization and doing so while keeping a sharp eye on the bottom line.

You should hire them.

Full of potential. Magicians in the moments.

Hopefully, now you see it too.

PS. My guess is AdOps isn’t the only misunderstood industry. If you’re part of an industry group that would like my help in translating what makes them uniquely awesome, drop us a line. Keywords and skills don’t tell anyone how people think and how people think are how they solve problems in the future. Also, I want to give a big shout out to Melissa Chapman and Rob Beeler of AdOpsOnline. I loved getting to step back into my professional past and inviting me to hang with these fabulous people.