ben-kneen-headshotAd Ops Insider explains the basics of interactive advertising from an operations and technical point-of-view.  My goal is to educate budding Ad Ops professionals and explain the hows and whys of what happens in the trenches in this ever-changing industry.

Ad Ops Insider is written by Ben Kneen.  I’ve worked in the digital advertising space since 2004, and in an Ad Operations role since 2006.  I started my career at Atlas, working on the publisher side of their Client Services group, and I’ve been working directly on publisher side ever since, in various yield management, business development, and product management roles at Rodale, WebMD, and PayPal.  Today, I lead the Client Success team at Yieldex, a publisher analytics and programmatic direct platform now owned by Appnexus.

Disclaimer: Please note that all of the posts and ideas on this site are solely my own.  I am not a spokesperson for my employer and my own views do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my employer.  Additionally, unless specifically noted (and I’ve never done so yet), all my posts are editorial in nature and I have not been compensated by any company I may review or mention in my posts.

Comments are welcome, and I try to respond to every question left on the site in a reasonable amount of time, usually within a day or two.  If, however, you’d rather reach out to me directly, you can email me at ben (at) adopsinsider.com, or connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.


  1. Hi seoabhinav83, the ads on this site are powered by Google’s Adsense engine, which is a network of sorts, though probably not what most people in the industry would typically consider a network. For me, it was just the easiest implementation to get some ads up and running same day, but I hope to consider other options down the road.

    If you are looking at a network you should consider joining an exchange or making your inventory available on a supply side platform such as Pubmatic (which offers products to very small publishers as well as very large publishers) or an AdMeld / Rubicon Project if you have more inventory (millions of impressions / month).

  2. Your website is such a great resource! Do you happen to know of any sites where people in the ad ops business can use to look for open positions/find out base salaries? My Google searches don’t yield very good results.

  3. Hi VTAJ0423,

    You can check the widget I have running in the right sidebar for some open positions in online advertising. AdMonsters.org is a great resource for Ops jobs specifically, and AdExchanger.com also has a fairly robust job board specific to online media.

    I’m not sure about salary ranges – you might be able to connect w/ an HR person at one of the big media companies or agencies on LinkedIn and ask them for a range. Alternatively I would call a recruiter and see if they might be willing to help you. Three Pillars does a lot of work in the Ops field and would have a good handle on the going rate for different positions.

    Best of luck!

  4. Ben, thanks for the shout out. VTAJ0423, if you are in the EU Market, you can go to this page: http://www.admonsters.com/event/cn-eu-15 and you will see our salary survey. The US version is not currently available online is only currently available for members who attend our publisher events. Our site has a forum where you might also want to post your question. Good luck!

  5. Hi,

    Great website. Any suggestions for a mobile ad inventory management tool? We are building a mobile network for publishers and are currently looking for a technology solution (as opposed to excel) for scaling out sales dept / publishers needs.


  6. Hi Dave,

    Thanks for the kind words – to answer your question, I would look at some of the ad serving platforms out there and what kind of forecasting tools they offer. If they can serve mobile, they should be able to forecast on it as well. For a dedicated system outside your ad server, I would look to the usual suspects – Yieldex or Solbright (now owned by Operative). As long as they can pick up some kind of data feed from your ad server, they should be able to provide inventory management tools. Sadly, both are a bit of a commitment in terms of integration.

  7. I’m interested in “ads” from a security perspective. Can you point me to any information of security vulnerabilities associated with hosting ads or technical vulnerabilities in the ads themselves?

  8. Hi Monty,

    Most security issues that publishers cope with is related to malware spawning out of remnant or network ads, but typically you can manage security concerns with an active relationship with your network partners. I would suggest you gain a thorough understanding of what controls are in place with any partner you use to verify buyers and QA the ad tags and creative itself. Do they run credit checks on their buyers in advance? Do they have a team that loads the ad before passing the tag off to you? Are there any systems or bots in place to call the ad on a regular basis to ensure it loads and does not try to spawn an .exe file?

    One thing I’ve learned that if a network asks you to not only serve, but host a very simple ad for a large company, that’s usually a red flag that something fishy is usually going on. If you are to serve a flash creative for a network, use a decompiler to look at the code and see if there are any pop ups (code will read target=’_blank’) and see if there is any reference to an .exe file. If so, I would not run the ad.

    Hope this helps –

  9. Great site, wonder if you could explain what passbacks are and how they communicate with the adserver.

  10. Hi Justin,

    Sure – a passback is just another redirect that a 3rd party uses to pass an ad call back to the original ad server. For example, let’s say you were working with an ad network and had their 3rd party tag trafficked in your ad server. If you have enough inventory, your ad server would eventually call that tag, and request an ad from the ad network. But let’s also say that a condition of your relationship with the ad network is that the ad network will pay you at least $1.00 CPM for every impression they serve. If the ad network can’t fill that impression, they need a way to give it back to your ad server and let you serve another ad, perhaps to another ad network where you have a guaranteed rate of $.80 CPM. It sounds like a good way to go, but this daisy-chain of ad calls can significantly increase page load time and also tends to increase 3rd party discrepancies by a large margin. That’s because once you start using passback tags, you aren’t just 3rd party serving, you’re 5th, 7th, or 9th party serving, depending on how many parties are in your daisy chain. It’s the same problem that the ad exchanges and supply side platforms (SSPs) aim to solve.

    The funny thing is though that supply side platforms still use passback tags with their ad network partners, though they tend to manage latency better than most publishers could. Certainly you should aim for a page load time under 4 seconds overall, and no more than 150 – 200ms at the most for the ad call itself. Best practice is more like 100 – 125ms.

    So, while passbacks are a bit of a dirty word in the ad serving business, they are still quite ubiquitous and a heavy cost on business, despite what most digital media companies would have you believe.


  11. Hi Ben,

    Great site. I’m relatively new to the industry and since you seem to be such a wealth of information, I was wondering if you had any advice as far as books/blogs/other information sources to get up to speed on all things in the interactive advertising space.

    I realize this is probably an EXTREMELY broad questions but any recommendations are appreciated.

  12. Hi Ben,

    Hey, thanks for this site. I’ve only briefly browsed it, but I can’t wait to dig deeper! I’m making a bit of a career adjustment, and ad ops seems to fit the bill. Thing is, I’ve only recently moved back to Silicon Valley and am playing a bit of catch-up in the tech world. Your site will surely help.

    I’m not finding “Dummies” books on ad ops, nor courses one can take. Are there other sources of information for people in my a position like mine?

    Huge thanks,


  13. Hi Dan,

    Thanks – congrats on your move into the Ad Ops world, I hope you find it rewarding. In terms of training and information, Ad Monsters is likely your best bet. They offer some beginners courses in Ad Ops in partnership with eConsultancy that are designed for people in your situation. Additionally, Ad Monsters hosts a forum that is well read if you have any specific questions. Ad Monsters has a large network as well, so the sooner you connect into it, the better for your career.

    I would start there, and if you have any other questions feel free to ask me and I’ll try to help as best I can.

    Good luck!


  14. Hi Ben-

    Your site rocks!

    I’m trying to bone up on display advertising for a strategy project.

    Your diagrams and explanations of the “plumbing” are awesome.

    Thanks, man. You are saving me a ton of time!


  15. Ben,
    1. Thank you, your content is extremely informative in addition to being concise.
    2. I’m working at a company that has over 800 million unique cookies with over 5 to 10 click events around those cookies as well as top level domain tracking around each cookie for a period of time. I’m trying to convince them to get into the game and become a player in the digital ad space but I’m not sure if these numbers will allow them to be a credible player. They have plenty of companies looking to buy their data but I told them to hold off rather than to minimize the value by reselling simply data. Can they be a player based on the numbers above? If yes, can they simply position themselves as a re-targeting platform?

    Would love a quick POV.

  16. Hi Ben, Can you please explain ..Why Ad-expert though an Ad-server do not have options to upload creatives and instead needs the support of CAM?

  17. Ben, would it be possible to connect with you via email? I have an interesting project which needs help from someone like yourself. The engagement will be strictly confidential. Please send me an email if your curious to hear more. And please forgive me if this post is inappropriate.


  18. Hello Ben –

    Many thanks for the very informative blog posts you have provided on how Ad servers, ad exchanges, DSP, SSP, etc. all work. As an outsider to the advertising world they have really helped me understand what is happening behind the scenes.


  19. Hi Ben-
    I’m a publisher and I’m having a lot of problems with my ad ops person, especially in matters of placement units. How could I understand this better? Are there any literature or seminars online? We work with OpenX, AdapTv, Bigthroll, etc… and we have some direct clients knocking on our doors, but my problem is completely my Ad Ops person. I would also consider hiring someone else – I wish and hope you can give me some feedback and help. Thanks so much!

  20. Ben, I have advanced technical experience with with Mediaplex “Mojo” ad-server for several years. I have an upcoming job opportunity for managing media, campaigns and all setup and & reporting for a client who uses DFA. I am tasked with learning DFA in the next few weeks as best I can, but have no access. I’m unable to even access basic user guide, PDF, etc without being a product user. For contract reasons, client cannot give me my login early even to access training materials and I cannot find anything online other than paid services from 3rd parties. If I don’t learn as much as possible before job starts, I will be in bad shape!

    It’s strange because I can find decent docs on DFP, but not DFA which is what I need. ANy advice? I’m fairly desperate! I found your site while searching for this info, will bookmark, good stuff!


  21. Hi Ike,

    Hm, you might be a bit stuck on such short notice – DFA is pretty locked down even with system documentation. I would say that most ad servers are pretty similar though, so if you’re already an expert with Mediaplex, I don’t think you’ll have much trouble learning DFA. The basic concepts are very similar, and it could be difficult to teach yourself much in the system anyways without working creative or specific tasks to do.

    Kudos to your future employer for hiring someone with such dedication, but I think you’ll be fine. Once you get access you’ll be able to catch up on the weekends or late night in the first week to get experience on any place where you’re weak, but I think you’ll find it more familiar than you anticipate. Don’t forget that many companies have their own workflow procedures and way to use the tool, and you’d have no way to learn those in advance even if you were already a DFA power user, so your workplace should hopefully cut you some slack for the first few weeks especially.

    Sorry I couldn’t give you anything beyond moral support, but good luck anyways!


  22. How do ad publishers deliver their ad content, do most tend to use CDN’s or their own servers?

  23. Hi Nick,

    Most publishers use a CDN, though the relationship to the CDN for ad content is often managed and paid for by the ad server. So it’s not so much that the publishers make the decision to work with a CDN for ad content as much as the publisher’s ad server makes that decision.


  24. Hi Ben,

    I have a question for you, when an AD is delivered through a Network, how is notified the AdTag which Site is delivering his Ad? In order to be segmented the data by Site.

    Supose that I have an AdServer and I wanna serve a Tag in RealMedia Network, and they deliver my tag in his network, is there any standard which give me the posibility to know which site is serving my Tag?

    Thanks in Advance!

  25. Hi Ben,

    You make the complicated ad operation process into an easy to understand story. Thank you very much for your work. I am currently an account manager of a DSP and it is also crucial to understand the market from SSP side.

    And your articles demonstrates issues from both sides!

    Thank you very much for sharing !


  26. Ben, what do you think about selling to cookie pools? I read your one post about data leakage but if I can commoditize the cookies you think it would be a good idea?

  27. Hi Hernan,

    Ad Networks can report on impression delivery by site because they have separate ad tags running on each site that allow it to identify each one uniquely. If you’re a publisher that takes network demand, the first thing you do is get a fresh set of ad tags from the network that you have to implement on your site, either coded onto your pages directly, or setup to serve in your ad server. From the network’s perspective though, even though their tags are distributed on many sites, they control delivery from a single ad server. So just like a publisher can tell what ads run on the homepage versus the sports section versus the news section, a network knows what ads were targeted and delivered to Site A versus Site B versus site C.

    To your specific question, I don’t know what 24/7 RealMedia can or will report on, but technically speaking, I would expect they would know exactly where your ads ran. That said, many publishers only sell inventory to a network on the condition that they remain anonymous, so the network may know, but be contractually barred from sharing the specific site by site delivery metrics with you. For a little extra money though you can likely direct them to only deliver your ads on sites where they can report back to you.

    I hope that helps –


  28. Hi Allison,

    I actually just wrote a post on this topic on another site where I have a column, Run of Network – check it out here: http://runofnetwork.adzerk.com/adops/publisher-monetization-data-selling-match-services/

    Data selling can be a good idea if you can’t sell the audience yourself – perhaps you just don’t have the resources for a sales team, or you don’t want to make that investment or deal with that headache. It works well for publishers that don’t want to be in the advertising business, like Expedia.com for example, who make most of their money off consumer services and referral fees from hotels and airlines, not advertisers.

    If you have a very valuable audience though and you also have a direct salesforce though it’s probably not a good idea – if you sell the data, your customers will likely just buy around you, and you’ll diminish the value of that data by commoditizing it on the marketplace. My advice would be to consider your individual situation and determine what the potential risks and opportunities are for you. Data selling can be a nice source of additional revenue, but it’s usually not terribly lucrative unless you are the one aggregating the data and selling it to the end user. If you are selling to the aggregator, it can be difficult to make much money in my experience.

    Best of luck!


  29. Hello Ben,

    Just started out in the lucrative world of ad ops- and have found your website a great resource. Quickly finding best way of learning a lot in this industry is on the job. However just a few things that i need clarifying to wrap my head around the industry jargon.

    1) What in plain terms is a DSP? who are the DSP? what do they do?

    2) Action tags / click trackers/ piggybacking pixels? How do these work in conjunction? Why is piggybacking useful and in what scenario best illustrates the use of piggybacking? When does one use the method of manually appending a redirect?

    3) Client/ publisher/ agency/ advertiser- what is the relationship here? who suppliers who? why for example do agencies take on display campaigns then pass it out to another agency? when they can do it themselves?

    Apologies if these are silly questions or not clear enough. I still haven’t been through all of your blog so you may have already answered some of these questions!

    Again thank you for such an insightful blog. Please keep it going! It would be great to have a glossary section maybe for the basics of ad ops and typical terms that crop up regularly. what do you think?

    All the best.

  30. Hi Lucas,

    That’s great – congrats! Let me see if I can help clarify a few of your questions –

    1. A DSP is a demand side platform, basically a technology that powers buying and optimizing ad impressions available through ad exchange in real time. Buyers can target audiences in these platforms, set price and budgets, and the DSP will identify impressions that fit those criteria when they come up for auction via the ad exchanges. So if you think of the RTB (real time bidding) system as an auction, supply side platforms (SSPs) are the sellers, ad exchanges are the auction houses, and DSPs are the bidders. Companies like Turn, DataXu, X+1, MediaMath, Triggit, Invite Media, and many other smaller players are considered DSPs. You may also hear the term ATD, or agency trading desk, which is typically a company owned by a large agency holding company that licenses DSP technology on behalf of their clients. In some cases, the ATD also adds their own proprietary technology on top of a DSP to alter the way it bids, or customize the audience on which it bids. The major ATDs are Vivaki, Accuen, Cadreon, Varick, and Xaxis, but there are many others out there.

    2. So action tags, click trackers, and piggybacked pixels are all more or less the same thing from a technical point of view, they are just referred to in different ways depending on their use. Action tags are typically used to track conversions – so if you make it to a retailer’s thank you page after placing an order, an invisible 1×1 pixel that calls a 3rd party system (like a DSP), sits on the page and tells the 3rd party that you converted. The 3rd party has a cookie on you, and can look back on what you did before converting to associate value back to those earlier actions. So for example, before you converted, you saw three ads for the retailer on two sites – knowing what messaging worked in the past that allows the 3rd party to optimize how they buy in the future. Click tags is just an action tag that fires off a click – so back to the example, you saw three ads but clicked on the last one before you converted. The click tag is just another signal back to a centralized system that’s recording how users interact with a campaign so it can figure out what’s working. An advertiser would almost certainly want to target and spend more against all users that clicked but have not yet converted as a dedicated strategy. Piggybacking is the way in which the call to the 3rd party is implemented – it’s the same thing as a redirect. Click tags are generally piggybacked on a link’s href, so that when the user calls the destination site, it’s forced to also call the centralized tracking system. That said, it can also be used to sync user IDs between systems in a process called cookie syncing, which you can read more about here: http://www.adopsinsider.com/ad-exchanges/ssp-to-dsp-cookie-synching-explained/

    3. Advertisers hire agencies to plan campaigns, buy media, and build creative; agencies in turn buy that media from publishers to acquire an audience for their creative. Advertisers often use multiple agencies that specialize in each part of the process – so there is an agency that all it does is buy the media, another agency that only builds creative, sometimes agencies that only buy digital media or TV media, and etc. Usually everything rolls up to a huge holding company though like Interpublic, or WPP. Client is a relative term, the advertiser is the agencies client, the agency is the publisher’s client, but typically both agencies and publishers refer to the advertiser (marketer is a better term, the brand actually paying for everything) as the client. Agencies outsource various parts of their operations because they have to – the marketer only wants to use Agency A’s media buying service, they want Agency B to build the creative, or because they need to – Agency A doesn’t know how to buy media using a DSP, so it farms it out to Agency B, usually a sister company of their holding company, that only buys media via a DSP, and is therefore theoretically much better at it than Agency A ever could.

    Hope that helps – best of luck, and thanks for reading –


  31. Thank you for such a comprehensive and understandable response ben! no doubt I will be coming back for more useful advice in the future! all the best

  32. Dear Ben,

    Happy Friday!

    First of all I would like to say thank you very much for sharing you knowledge in AdOps. I read some of your articles and those are really good with content and analysis.

    Keep posting these kind of article, these will help in one 0r the other way to grow in this domain.

    Thanks much again for sharing this and I will you all the very best for your website.

    Professional Blogger

  33. Hi Ben,

    I have a quick question; what if a DSP is ad serving flash ads and does not have any back up GIF images. And the site that it is bidding on is unable to serve flash ads.

    Does this mean the DSP loses the bid?

  34. Hi Tasha,

    Hm, that would be unusual – back up gifs are pretty standard practice. That said, if for some reason the scenario you describe played out, it would probably just appear as a tracking discrepancy between systems. The DSP would count an impression was delivered, as would the publisher, but the advertiser, having their view tag embedded in the flash creative (which was unable to load for a non-flash enabled user) wouldn’t see their tag count anything.

    There’s nothing to stop a DSP from winning a bid for an impression on a user which doesn’t have Flash, at least on the desktop side. In a mobile environment, while there’s technically nothing different in terms of what a DSP can and can’t win, you’d likely see a lot more focus on device targeting to ensure the DSP wasn’t bidding on iOS devices with flash creative let’s say.

    Hope that helps –


  35. so adam! back again! hope you are well!

    few months into the ad serving world…still so many questions!o what do you think of Facebook planning on buying your old employers ATLAS?
    seems insane! having used a few ad servers now since starting in ad ops, ATLAS technology seems so outdated to me…i can understand them wanting to acquire atlas now and it being useful in the short run, however, in the long run as display technology becomes more sophisticated & evolves (i mean atlas can’t even serve proper true rich media still!)

    I think it will all depend on how much FB is willing to overhaul the ATLAS ad server platform, if they are prepared to do this, then it may be an awesome purchase otherwise, compared to the competition they may end up making a bad decision i think.

    all the best

  36. Hi Lucas,

    What a shamefully late reply on my part – sorry!

    To your question though, while it seems like the rumor was just that by this point, I don’t think it would have been a bad idea, assuming the price was cheap. Here’s the thing, Atlas, while I loved working there, is sadly no longer a gold-standard ad serving platform. Microsoft never really invested in the platform, and I think it’s pretty obvious they didn’t have much vision for the product. But, Atlas still has lots of customers that use it, and it’s a major, certified platform that pretty much everyone in the digital ad business sees as a known quantity, unlike the Facebook platform.

    So I could get excited by the possibility of making it turnkey for the advertisers on Atlas to traffic directly into Facebook placements, get reporting and tracking through the platform they like today, and just make updates to an existing interface rather than compel all those people to get on a new interface. Plus, Facebook as the new competitor in ad serving to DoubleClick would have been pretty cool given how limp Microsoft has proven to be these past few years. That said, I agree with you that the value really depends on FB’s appetite for a major overhaul. I don’t know how ugly the backend of that system is, so maybe FB looked at it and decided integration benefits didn’t outweigh the cost of the platform or the development pain.

    Who knows!

  37. Ben,

    I’ve been all over trying to sort out this out. I’m trying to get best practices and a policy for testing not just creatives (via ad tools or server) but also testing my websites impact on the ads and vice versa. Do you have any good insight?


  38. Hi Allison,

    Yikes, this comment has been sitting around for some time, sorry about that! I think it depends how obsessive you want to be about it; Google has a pretty nifty tool called PageSpeed: http://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed which gives you specific recommendations on how to improve both your web and mobile experiences. It’s free, and instant, but it’s a one time deal. You can install a PageSpeed plugin if you use Google Analytics, but I’m not sure how specific you can get with it. YSlow, GTMetrix, and Load Impact are also pretty well regarded tools in the same vein.

    If you want to really get serious about site and performance measurement, you’ll probably need to look at something like Gomez from Compuware – you can get a free test here: http://www.gomeznetworks.com/custom/instant_test.html. From what I know, Gomez is what the Systems teams at the largest publishers use to monitor and optimize site performance.

    If you have an application, or software on which your site depends, you might look at NewRelic or Scout.

    Hope that helps –


  39. I am very new to the world of online display marketing so I will be grateful if you could explain this to me.
    Between publishers and advertisers, which one acts as a buyer and which one acts a seller in an ad exchange.

  40. Hi Dan,

    Publishers are the sellers, and advertisers are the buyers in pretty much all media transactions, whether it happens on an ad exchange or not. Think of it this way, publishers are in the business of creating content, and if they do a good job of it, that content will attract an audience. Advertisers want to reach those audience with some kind of message or content of their own that drives awareness that a product or brand exists, and eventually, leads the audience to buy something. So advertisers rely on publishers to attract audiences with editorial content so they can reach lots of people with their own content, for a fee. The advertisers pay the publishers therefore to place their content alongside the publisher’s editorial content, in front of the publisher’s audience. This is what people in the business call ‘paid media’ and it’s what most people think about when they think of advertising. So when you hear about the ‘demand side’ in ad exchanges, think ‘advertiser’ and when you hear ‘sell side’ think ‘publisher’

    These lines can blur though; publishers often employ a strategy they call ‘audience extension’ where they buy media against an audience they identified on their own site from other publishers on behalf of an advertiser. For example, Cars.com has a very valuable audience of people in market for a car, so naturally, car manufacturers like Ford are really interested in advertising with Cars.com. The only thing is that people only spend so much time on Cars.com before they go off and check their mail, or read the news, check the weather, and so on. But they’re still that valuable audience of people in market for a car. So what Cars.com and other publishers with similarly valuable audiences will do is retarget those users themselves, but display a Ford ad if they win the exchange auction. In this case, the advertiser is buying from a publisher, who is then buying from another publisher. So the advertiser is still the end buyer, but they may not be the buyer per se of the auction which displays their ad. Not only that, but ad networks may take a similar strategy, where the ad network buys on behalf of an advertiser in the exchange – it can get confusing!

    One of the other interesting things that’s happening in digital advertising right now though is advertisers are starting to become content creators of their own, often times in social channels like Twitter or Facebook. For example, you might follow a particular brand or retailer on Twitter because they tell you about sales, or they have a funny personality, or share news that you care about. In other words, the brand is trying to curate some kind of discussion that’s in line with the brand image, but not necessarily advertising in the classic sense. Whole Foods posting recipes, or Nike posting photos of the New York marathon would be examples of this strategy, which we call ‘owned media’, because the advertiser is acting as the publisher because they are creating the content that attracts an audience.

    And, because social media channels are interactive, you might choose to respond to some of this owned media, maybe you retweet the Whole Foods recipe to your followers, or you Instagram yourself at the marathon and reply back to the Nike post on Facebook. You might even (gasp!) mention something you heard from one of these owned media channels to a friend while walking down the street. All these word of mouth, consumer-spread messages about the brand are called ‘earned media’, because the brand is effectively getting free advertising, courtesy of you, based on the investments they made in their paid and owned media channels. You telling your friend about something on the street isn’t all that trackable, but retweets on Twitter and Facebook posts certainly are.

    Hope that answers your question and gives you some other topics to read about –


  41. Your site is finally exactly what I was looking for. I’ve been selling audience network inventory for more then two years with great success. I recently joined a new company that wants to utilize my digital sales ability. Problem is they have no products to sell. There looking to me to help build an array of digital products. In the past I made the sale filled out the buy sheet used an IO tool to upload what I wanted along with the creative and bingo bang-o the ad started to fulfill. Thanks a lot, I’m starting to understand what the heck was going on behind the curtain. I’m currently looking for a DSP provider and your information goes along way. Thanks again. I’m still not completely clear on how the data level interacts with the DSP. I’m sure as I continue to read I will be enlightened.

  42. Wow, you are so damn smart. I’m doing research for a job at AppNexus, and I couldn’t find any easy description of how app tech platforms works, and your comprehensive explanations made it so simple. I think it’s awesome of you to share your wisdom. If I get the job, I owe you a drink 😉

    Many thanks,

  43. Hi Ben,

    Just seeking for advice on team restructuring here.
    I’m working at an ad network at the moment and the company is switching the business model to cover trading desk as well. We will still have ad network (for premium ad format and CPE model). In your opinion, should the whole ad ops team switch to trading desk or trading desk should be of a separate team under ad ops department?


  44. Hi Phooi –

    I suppose it depends how fast your business is, or can change. If you think you’ll eventually convert most of your campaigns to a DSP, then you’ll at least want a plan to train folks to a that new skill set in a phased approach. Where I’ve done this myself before, we identified a manager within the team, and a subject matter expert to take the lead first, and then as the business grew over to that side, we trained more folks over.

    Hope that helps –


  45. Hi Ben,

    My clients are looking at clicks of their ads divided by visits and they define that as the connection rate. Clicks are in the ad server and visits in the analytics package. Rates vary, but I was wondering if you had any tips for Q/A ing for potential problems. This may including auditing the click-through urls, but how can we see the any information about the ad publishers redirection to see if it may be stripping click-through information, so no visit can be counted in the analytics package?

    Hope you have an idea.


  46. Hi Jeff,

    I know you asked your question a few weeks back – sorry for my delayed response! What I would try to do though is get both metrics into a single system by using conversion pixels. You can read more about how DFP does that here: https://support.google.com/dfp_premium/answer/2477680?hl=en&ref_topic=2457474 If you are the advertiser you’d just use a Floodlight tag, as described here: https://support.google.com/dcm/partner/answer/2823400?hl=en These are specific to DoubleClick’s system, but this is table stakes functionality for an ad server, so I’d be surprised if you can’t find a solution.

    These mechanisms tend to use a cookie to handle the attribute (view to click to visit), so you don’t have to worry about how a publisher implements it. No code has to get passed with query strings between the publisher to advertiser (at least usually), so it should simplify your life.

    Hope that helps –

  47. Hi Ben.

    Thanks for the quick response. I have a few more questions. I am building up a platform which can analyze data efficiently. What data points are available (specifically mobile as there are some cookie issues) and what are the ones most sought after. What are the most valuable data points that DSPs are looking for and how they they value them? I am finding it very really difficult to quantify and put any solid value on data points. Secondly, what is the process where an mobile app can send data to a DSP. For example, how would a DMP (bluekai etc) send data to a DSP though mobile applications. Sorry for all the questions but after scouring everywhere i thought i might as well ask,. Best regards.


  48. Hi David,

    In the mobile realm, certainly AdvertisingID (Android) and IdentifierForAdvertising (also called IDFA, for iOS). Those variables power audience targeting in mobile environments and are difficult to come by. Obviously those are pulled from the device itself, so they are only available in app. Outside of that, without a doubt would be location via GPS coordinates, which powers a lot of geofencing campaigns. Those are also essentially only available in app, but can sometimes be available via web (though you must prompt the user to share). I don’t know that you’ll be able to assign a value to any data point in a vacuum, though. It depends on the geography of your inventory (US is way more valuable than India, for example), the OS (iOS more valuable than Android, both far more valuable than Blackberry), the publisher who has the inventory (arcade game for teenagers not nearly as valuable as the Wall Street Journal), and at the end of the day, how well that inventory / data performs. Advertisers should buy almost any kind of data if it increases performance above its cost, but you’re just going to have to prove it to them to figure out the worth.

    To your second question, there is an OpenRTB spec for mobile that describes the bid request format for all publishers to connect to DSPs. Look at section 3.2.7 and 6.3.3 on the current spec: http://www.iab.net/media/file/OpenRTB-API-Specification-Version-2-3.pdf In terms of shipping data from DMP to DSP, you’d have to have a common key (which is a synced cookie in desktop, and possibly lots of things like AdvertisingID / IDFA in mobile), and then you can likely send flat files, XML, or communicate directly with an API.

    Hope that helps –

  49. Hi Ben,

    At my job, I am receiving digital media plans that detail impressions. However, in order to do datamatching feasibility estimates I need to convert impressions to reach figures. I have seen a few different formulas on this but wanted to get your input as well.


  50. Hi Betsy,

    I’m not sure how else you could really do it other than to find the number of unique users via a site analytics platform on your site, and divide that figure into the number of impressions you serve during the same period. That would give you an imps / user figure you could use for your media plan – you should try to align your uniques number to the flight of the media plan however, because I would assume you have at least some degree of return visitors, so you can’t simply sum the uniques / day, as some uniques overlap across days.

    Good luck!

  51. Hi Ben –

    Unfortunately I am at a research vendor and have no way of running the number of uniques.

    Don’t agencies have a way of calculating reach for the proposed campaign via their tools or syndicated tools?


  52. Hi Ben – Here at Tivo Research, we are all about data matching. I have a pharma client who would like to do an ROI study involving paid search ads (as well as regular banner ads) and traditional TV ads. What I normally do with regular digital ads is – we have the agency tag the ads and we match those cookie ID’s to our TV HH ID’s via Live Ramp and then execute our single source analysis of HH that saw Digital and/or TV and then bought the product. What I need to know is, is there a way to connect a user who was exposed or clicked on a paid search ad with our Tivo TV HH ID’s? I don’t know if you can tag a paid search ad or not. If not, is there any other way I can connect those users to our ID’s?


  53. Hi Betsy,

    Hm, interesting – I think it depends how easy it is for you to connect a cookie ID to a Tivo HH ID. You could cookie users who click one of your paid search ads (pass a source key-value on your clickthrough URL of the paid search ad, and use that to segment users as ‘paid search clickers’), and then assuming you have a way to connect a website visitor to a Tivo ID via LiveRamp or others, that should let you achieve what you want.


  54. Hi Ben –

    Thanks so much for your help. Can you please explain what a source key value is? If I cookie the url they click through to, how will I be able to discern on the back end where these uses came from? Would I have to create a separate url entirely for that landing page? The cookie match to Live Ramp isn’t the problem, rather it’s “tagging” the ad and having an ID to pass back to Live Ramp.


  55. Hi Betsy,

    A source keyvalue would just define the source of the traffic. You’d literally write http://www.yourclickthroughdomainhere.com/?source=paidsearch with ‘?source=paidsearch’ being the source key and value on your ads in paid search. You could just as easily write ‘?source=facebook’ or ‘?source=directpublisherbuy’, and etc for other channels. It would just let you see where your clickers were coming from.

    You shouldn’t need to create a different landing page, because a query string doesn’t impact the URL, it just provides a way to pass information on that page. So, if you can cookie users once they get to your site on yourclickthroughdomainhere.com AND add the source keyvalue as a parameter in the cookie (or log it somewhere else useable to create the table of source : user ID), you can tie where the user came from to a cookie ID, even if you can’t cookie the user on the source.

    Hope that makes sense –


  56. Ben,

    I’ve been all over and hope you can help me with this. We are redesigning our site and want to update the ad setup. My dev team is looking to me on how to set up the ads. I’ve searched on ad ops site and asked a bunch of people (even my server) but there don’t seem to be any best practices. Do you have any suggestions on where to look for this? I’m honestly at a loss. Thanks!

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