IAB Ad Operations Summit Wrap Up - 2008

“You are the guardians of profit in the advertising industry and you have never been more important.” The magnitude of the day’s topic was clear as Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, opened the IAB Ad Operations Summit on Thursday, October 30 in New York City. The unprecedented assembly of more than 200 agencies and publishers demonstrated the advertising industry’s desire – and the necessity—to collectively make strides in the war on discrepancies. It’s an opportunity to work together like never before.

“Everything is about solutions today,” said Jeremy Fain, Vice President, Industry Services, for the IAB. “Today we will see and talk about solutions and how we can drive them forward,” he explained as he iterated a brief history of this “war,” the day’s robust agenda and the solutions being developed by the IAB’s Ad Operations Council over the past few years. The onsite release of five groundbreaking IAB initiatives—the foundation of the day’s information—highlights the IAB Ad Ops Council’s commitment to driving industry-wide adoption of critical workflow improvements, best practices and guidelines by media companies and advertising agencies within the digital marketing ecosystem. View the complete “The War on Discrepancies: Where We Are and Where We Are Going” PowerPoint presentation here.

From agency side to publisher side and back again was the objective of “The Ideal Campaign Workflow: Bringing Best Practices to Life,” as Mai Wah Cheung from Univision Online and Christine Peterson from Carat went back and forth examining each step of the campaign workflow process. Carefully dissecting each stage, they explained the “ideal” structure while being realistic about the increased resources needed to accomplish it. The key is to select the most impactful segments for your business and implement to the best of your ability. View the complete PowerPoint presentation for this session here.

Building on this model, the next session brought best practices to the day-to-day through implementation and usability in the real, though sometimes not ideal business world. Panelists applauded and acknowledged the elementary level of some steps—noting they may be basic, but are frequently overlooked in larger organizations, in addition to serving as a strong training platform. Matt Corbin of Google Inc./You Tube positioned the campaign workflow document to “manage upstream—getting the entire organization to think about ad operations as a whole.” However, nothing can be taken too literally. The challenge of balancing compliance with satisfied clients does come into play. When a major client consistently misses creative deadlines there’s a decision to be made—and that decision is usually acceptance.

Automation as a method to detect and deal with discrepancies took center stage in the next few presentations. The goal of the Impression Exchange Solution being developed by the IAB’s Ad Ops Council is to create an automated feed between publishers and third-party ad-servers in order to detect discrepancies in near-real-time. Zack Rogers from CBS and Steve Sullivan from Microsoft talked through each phase and the remaining open items being addressed. The complete “Dealing with Discrepancies: An Impression Exchange Solution” can be viewed here.

After the networking lunch it was right back into the thick of things with Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). The first-ever beta version, which was released at the event, focuses on a small set of functionalities which will ultimately become more focused in later releases. “The most important thing the IAB is doing is starting with the right transaction—a business process,” said Harvey Kent from Donavan Data Systems.  “Now the vendors must get together to figure out what they can do—what can they each send and receive,” he concluded.

When it comes to checks and balances, more and more clients are demanding proof and rightfully so. The sentiment was heard from the panelists and through audience questions alike. Why should a company voluntarily undergo an audit? Suzanne Faulkner from PricewaterhouseCoopers may have summed up the answer in one statement. “Advertising is more critical now due to the economy, but the scrutiny about what the customers are getting for the money is increasing—use the audit as a selling point,” she urged. Another industry-wide benefit is that auditing can bring the entire interactive sector to a level playing field with other media industry players.

Now, while all these solutions sound like they’re ready to take the industry by storm—there’s one piece still missing for some organizations--the people. Talent, organizational structure and resource management are key in the implementation of every solution discussed, and as ad operations has traditionally been plagued with high turnover. Two Ad Operations Directors, Adrian D’Souza from Google and Ron Duque from Mediaedge:cia  counter this by helping employees map out a career path and keeping them motivated with incentives, new skills to master and “proactive” projects to help reemphasis each employees role in the big picture.

Reducing discrepancies and improving efficiencies in the ad operations process is a monumental task. It can’t be done quickly or independently.  This powerful assembly of agencies and publishers is proof of that. The IAB Ad Ops Council has worked, and will continue to work, tirelessly to bring together solutions that address both the publisher and agency challenges for the greater good of the industry.