Working in Ad Operations: Must-Know Resources

As with any job, the first step in getting hired is getting educated on the state of the industry, how it works, who the key players are, and where you might get hired.  Thankfully, Ad Operations has an active and welcoming community, and is well covered by niche, but professional news outlets. This article explains how you can get involved and how to get and stay informed about what’s happening in Ad Ops and interactive media.

The Ad Operations Community: AdMonsters

While there are many trade organizations focused on interactive media, none is more focused on or relevant to the Ad Operations workforce than AdMonsters.

Many in the industry are most familiar with the organization’s event programming, which is highly recommended, as it tends to attract less people from the executive level and more from the operations, implementation level of organizations.  I find this approach grounds the conversations and makes for an action-oriented event, with concrete and relevant takeaways.  It also provides a rare opportunity to network and connect with folks who are solving problems on the ground at the organization, and get user-level feedback on new technologies, and potential partners your organization might be evaluating.

Beyond the full calendar of events and conferences around the world, AdMonsters hosts a digital library of reference content written by industry veterans that cover the finer details of a broad range of topics that explain everything from the technical standards for interactive video ads to how companies organize their Ad Ops departments.  This resource pulls from their well written on-site blog, as well as conference presentations.  In most cases you can find content that will give you a general overview of the topic, as well as explain the more technical side, so it’s an ideal starting point for research on niche topics.

In addition to that, AdMonsters hosts perhaps the most engaged industry forum out there, where you can ask questions on virtually any topic pertaining to Ad Ops and get direct answers and help from people that work in the industry.  And finally, AdMonsters maintains one of the largest and most relevant job boards for positions in Ad Operations, especially at the junior and mid-level, so be sure to check it out if you are looking for your first job in the industry.

AdMonsters is a member organization, but free to join and open to students.

Digital Media News: Ad Exchanger

As you learn more, you’ll find few industries that match the rapid pace of change as interactive media, which seems to endure revolutionary change every few years as new startups upend old business models, powerful executives jump from one company to another, and private shops are swallowed up in public acquisitions.  So it goes without saying that being informed on what’s going on in the industry is part of everyone’s job.

To keep up with the industry news, many digital media professionals turn to AdExchanger, run by industry veteran and journalist, John Ebbert.  While the site covers breaking news, it excels more at in-depth, post-announcement interviews with industry executives, quality opinion pieces by industry stakeholders, and weeding through the mountain of press releases to round up the most important events and announcements of the week.  The site offers a free daily email that summarizes the daily site content which is recommended if you don’t have time to check the site on a regular basis.

In addition to their news coverage, AdExchanger has an underrated and under-appreciated resources section, which collects and categorizes a long list of industry whitepapers and thought-pieces, has a fairly comprehensive directory of industry relevant Twitter handles, as well as a directory of ecosystem links to various companies, trade organizations, and influential people.

For more digital media coverage, check out Digiday and MediaPost.

Ad Technology 101: The LUMAscape

The LUMAscape isn’t an organization or a media outlet; in fact, it’s nothing more than a single slide of company logos, organized by the service they provide, and positioned between advertiser and audience.  Yet there’s nothing that sums up what’s happening in the digital media space more than this single image, which is referenced ad nauseam in sales presentations, conferences, events, and virtually anytime and anywhere the industry gets together.  It is so ubiquitous and influential that one might consider it an executive summary of the industry to the outside world.  As such, it’s required reading for anyone interested in working and understanding this space. You might also consider reading my annotated version of the LUMAscape, which explains some of the nuances behind the graphic.

Compiled and maintained by the influential investment banker Terry Kawaja of LUMA Partners, perhaps the most important dealmaker working in the advertising technology industry today, this image is widely cited within the industry as a symbol of the fragmented, confusing nature of digital media.   That said, it also serves as a useful starting point in understanding what companies compete with each other, what all these startup companies actually do, who their customers are, and whether or not they are independent or owned by another company.  Terry does a great job of keeping the slide current, and actually maintains a few versions that speak to other branches of digital media, like Social, Mobile, Video, and others.

Join the Conversation on Twitter and Reddit

It’s no surprise that the interactive media community is actively engaged on the social networking hub that is Twitter.  If you aren’t signed up already, I would strongly encourage you to do so now, especially for those looking to break into the industry.  Twitter is an ideal listening post to learn what people in the industry are thinking about, gauge their reaction to industry developments, start to make connections, and maybe even find a job.  I find the Twitter community to be welcoming, but even if you don’t want to broadcast anything, Twitter is a fantastic listening post.

The easiest way to get started is to look at the AdExchanger Twitter Directory which covers many individual influencers as well as company and news media accounts.  You can follow me by clicking the button at the top of the sidebar, or by clicking here: AdOpsInsider.

While industry big wigs gravitate toward Twitter, the people in the trenches seem to be moving toward Reddit as a place to connect on specific strategies and more detailed questions that can’t be captured in 140 characters or less.  In fact, I’d say theAd Ops Subreddit is quickly replacing the Ad Monsters forum as the preferred discussion community, which has suffered under lousy software and too much interaction from vendors in my opinion.  While you might see a post every other day on AdMonsters, you’re likely to see a handful every day on Reddit.  You can find people asking technical implementation questions as well as trading tactical strategies with each other, and you’ll find me there too posting under the username adopsinsider.

Follow Experts and Ask Questions on Quora

Somewhere between the high-profile experts on Twitter and the tactical but largely anonymous community on Reddit, Quora is a vibrant resource that combines the two.  Quora isn’t specific to digital advertising, but rather a free platform lets anyone ask or answer a question about any topic, and just happens to have fantastic community in the digital media thread.  You must use your real name as your username on Quora, which is displayed whenever you answer a question, and helps suss out who’s qualified to respond and who’s not, as well as potential conflicts of interest in any answers.  You’d be surprised at how many company founders, CEOs, CTOs, heads of product, and other powerful industry experts are answering questions on Quora!  Transparency in who answers is a key part of the value, but you can ask questions anonymously, so there’s no embarrassment over what might seem like a stupid question.

The digital advertising industry is certainly engaged on Quora, and there’s an endless stream of questions out there specific to the digital advertising business and Ops specifically.  You can start by following some of the topics below, which will populate a feed of existing questions and responses on your login screen, and will automatically update with new items as they arise.  The service even suggests topics it think you might be interested based on what you already follow.  Here are just a few worth following:

You can also see my answers and see what topics I’m following on Quora here: Ben Kneen.

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