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From Ideas to Action: The IAB Ad Operations Summit

More agency professionals than ever before joined publishers at the sold-out 2009 IAB Ad Operations Summit in New York to build the strong, cross-functional partnerships needed to achieve quantifiable progress in the war on discrepancies. “Your ideas ensure that creative will flow clearly,” said Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO, IAB, as he welcomed the ad ops professionals. “The future of media depends on your skills—what you do—to determine how to remove the friction.”  

Led by IAB Vice President, Industry Services, Jeremy Fain, the day began with a look into the future to true operational efficiency. Universal McCann’s David Cohen emphasized how a healthy respect and trust between buyers and sellers reduces what he considers to be the greatest inhibitor of industry growth: the business of doing business. After covering the progress made with measurement and standards, process improvements, electronic data and automation, and standard operating principles—and providing a glimpse of what’s still to come before the industry can declare “mission accomplished,” Adrian D’Souza from Google, Co-Chair of the IAB Ad Operations Council. He hinted at a day when “ad operations” can become known as “revenue operations” to represent the function’s true impact in the media industry.

The first onstage demonstration was the IAB’s Impression Exchange Solution that will forever alter the way discrepancies are managed and resolved. IAB members Kamal Chadha from CBS Interactive, Tim Messier from The Weather Channel Interactive and Steve Sullivan of Microsoft Advertising explained how allowing agencies and publishers to detect and address discrepancy issues directly and quickly through the automated exchange of impression data between publishers and third-party ad servers enhances the user experience.

Optimizing content to help ads load faster and more efficiently is the goal of the Ad Load Performance Scoring Tool according to Pramod Khincha of Yahoo! and Bryant Mason of Microsoft Advertising. Helping publishers and agencies test creative delivery prior to insertion to ensure pages load faster, leads to higher consumer satisfaction, lower page abandonment and more opportunity for ads to yield higher conversion or click-through rates.

Joining the conversation next, creatives Becky Minervino of McKinney, Noah Brier of The Barbarian Group and Marc Lucas of Razorfish shared insights on striking the balance between efficiency, scalability and the freedom to develop cutting-edge creative. Marc perceives the biggest development challenge as the need to help people embrace what advertisers provide rather than tune it out. “You don’t pull out your phone for a brand message, you pull it out for information that a brand message may be attached to,” he said.

Dan Murphy from Univision Interactive Media, and Co-Chair of the IAB Ad Operations Council, led into the lunch break with a quick round-up of the IAB Ad Operations Council efforts over the past several years. He credited the original group of publishers for taking on the initiative three years ago of actively listening to their agency and vendor counterparts. Recognizing that both parties have similar problems to address was a breakthrough toward the results the industry is experiencing today. 

One of the hottest debates in the industry—who controls the data and why it matters—brought attendees back into the general session room after the buzzing networking luncheon. “Data will liberate us or crash us,” said John Montgomery of GroupM Interaction before he predicted that RFP based premium content buys will shrink to 30% of all spending in the future and recommended the industry make data 30-50% more efficient over next 3 years. The panel agreed that the industry needs to “embrace the murkiness” of data issues and find better ways to help brands reach audiences at scale buy turning the massive amounts of data into insights—event if it increases the complexity of the job.

MediaBank, Univision Interactive Media, Donovan Data Systems and Operative explored the power of automation from stage as they detailed their work in phase one on the E-Business Solutions process, which currently includes the RFP, proposal and insertion order. This huge efficiency step for publishers and agencies will make possible the operational scale required for profitable growth.

The final session of the day, From Innovation to Execution, Where the Runner Meets the Road, paired a leading media executive, Mark Ellis, of AOL Advertising with his top ad operations colleague, Rob Deichert. Together, they analyzed mass customization options and the impact on profits. Rob detailed the “sales integration role” AOL has implemented to ensure programs understand—and build for—client expectations. Mike Leo of Operative, who moderated the discussion, questioned the pair on what role customer satisfaction along with efficiency and effectiveness had in the sales pitch process.

The IAB Ad Operations Summit provided a clear, defined roadmap for automation, systems integration and standardization that advances the war on discrepancies and increases efficiencies while decreasing costs. Twelve months ago, it would have been impossible to provide a glimpse of what operational utopia would look like for the interactive advertising industry, but the ad ops community has come together to develop real technological advancements that promise to free us from focusing on fixing discrepancies after the fact, and allow us to shift attention to the delivery of new services to customers.