Today's column is written by Mike Lewis, President and Co-Founder of Ad-Juster, an ad server discrepancy management company.
Whether relaying target coordinates of hostile and friendly forces on a battlefield or passing digital ad tags for 3rd party served campaigns, the points where data changes from one system to another are critical to the success or failure of that transmission. These points are commonly referred to as "hops". Having come from the Defense industry, I'm familiar with disparate, stove-piped data networks which are fraught with hops. As a rule, the more automated the hop, the greater the chance it has of success. This is why I remain so amazed that in an age of transformation in the digital advertising industry, when many ad serving platforms are in their 3rd and 4th generations, the standard operating procedure for passing ad tags from agency to publisher remains email. I've even heard cases of clients receiving tags over instant messenger.
Most local ad serving platforms utilized by digital publishers have started to incorporate sophisticated tools to help ad ops professionals insert cache busting, click tracking and other common modifications. However, there is currently no clear digital path to get these tags into the ad server when issued to them by their agency customers. Ad trafficking personnel are required to cut and paste these tags from messages, emails, or spreadsheets. Most times an entire insertion order worth of individual tags will be pasted into their local ad platform. This is a manual process potentially resulting in human error that is costly in both lost revenue opportunity (unnecessary discrepancy) and time (re-trafficking ads).
Add to the mix an ever-increasing landscape of new rich media ad servers, video tags, and the fact that growing file sizes will naturally lend themselves to larger transmission discrepancies and you have the makings of an ongoing ad operations nightmare. Some progress seems to loom on the horizon. The IAB's E-business Interactive Standards initiative is working hard towards the automation of the RFP and trafficking work-flow for digital ad operations groups, however it does not go far enough nor is it getting here fast enough.
Where do we go and how do we get there?
The first step we must take as an industry is to break the stove pipe. This step is by far the most transformational and the most difficult. By using the current generation of information exchange technologies, information can flow in structured and discoverable ways. No longer should companies have to spend millions of dollars in implementing static inflexible and rigid work-flows. Leveraging these data exchanges to enhance existing systems and business processes with out starting from scratch should be the primary goal. By doing so we would eliminate the manual intervention needed to move data from one system to another. We must automate the "hops".
The second step is for us to continue see more partnerships up and down the value chain. While ad tags present a clear example of systemic stove pipes that have negatively impacted the digital ad ops environment, we must continue to reach out as technology companies in all areas of the digital advertising universe, from ad servers to order management systems to sales relationship tools to yield managers. All areas of the industry will benefit from these two steps. The additive value of each component of the work-flow is derived from its ability to enhance the capability of each component, not from its ability to isolate its value from them.
Lets see what we can do to remove Ctrl+C Ctrl+V from the ad operations specialist's dictionary.