The Year in Ad Ops 2011 – Adobe Emerged as a Major Force in Ad Tech

I can’t think of another powerhouse corporation that has moved so quickly into the ad tech business as Adobe did this year. Before 2011, Adobe had only happenstance exposure to the market, playing a key role in things like site analytics (via Omniture), and rich media development (via Macromedia’s Flash), but didn’t have much involvement in the delivery of ads themselves. In the course of a year however, Adobe bought its way to a leadership position in data management, cross platform video ad serving, and social marketing. Thanks to three major ad tech acquisitions book-ending the year as well as the launch of an ambitious product to streamline ad trafficking, Adobe’s moves should make any Ops department sit up and take notice as one of the most viable competitors to the Google stack to come along yet. (more…)

The Year in Ad Ops 2011 – MediaBank & Donovan Data Systems Merger

If you’ve ever used Google’s AdWords product, you know how blissfully simple it is to plan, budget, buy, track, and pay for your campaigns from a single interface.  It’s intuitive enough for virtually any small business to figure out on their own, but flexible enough to scale up to the world’s largest marketers.  Compare that now to the way most agencies buy digital media from online publishers, hacking their way through Excel templates, a pile of system interfaces, gobs of email threads, and fax machine printouts with an army of entry-level communications graduates.  To get a display media campaign live, it’s downright prehistoric, and certainly one of the biggest growth liabilities to the industry.

That’s why the MediaBank / Donavan Data Systems merger, assuming it gets approved by the Department of Justice, is so significant, because it has the potential to link all the systems an agency needs to execute a media buy from start to finish, thereby dramatically simplifying the process, and making it more efficient to spend money in digital.  If you work in Ops, MediaOcean has the promise to effectively end standard ad trafficking as you know it, moving your team away from ad server monkeys to a far more strategic QA and custom campaign execution experts.

How exactly would this happen?  The vision is for these companies to combine their existing agency workflow management software, and then develop a powerful open source API connection for outside ad technology companies to build on top of their existing product.  Between the two companies, MediaBank & DDS already effectively own the market for agency workflow systems.  This is the software agencies already use to manage traditional advertising campaigns, covering everything from tracking client budgets and agency fees, to actually booking ads with publishers.  Now, the companies want to combine forces to enable those same benefits on digital channels.  Through their APIs, the systems might connect the marketer’s ad server to the publisher’s ad server, allowing a machine to book the campaign, or at least mostly, instead of a human.

In my mind, the success of MediaOcean would move the Ad Ops department in most companies to a much more strategic place in the organization, removing the need for a brute force army of traffickers, and instead creating the opportunity for more technical strategists.  By spending less time going through the motions in the ad server to get simple campaigns live, Ad Ops could transition to client facing, cross-department consultants that enable highly specialized sponsorship campaigns, cross platform buys, and provide smart optimization strategies to drive more impactful results for advertisers.  Vendor implementations, campaign measurement, campaign execution, company communication, everything gets easier.  It’s about as close to a silver bullet solution as I could think of to some of the biggest issues facing digital advertising.

Here’s hoping it works, and next year we’re talking about the impact of MediaOcean, instead of its potential.

Read about the other most significant developments in Ad Ops in 2011:

Adobe Emerged as a Major Force in Ad Tech
MRAID Specs Released

Adobe’s Vision for Ad Validation: Project Adthenticate

While new to the market and perhaps less established than AdValidation, Adthenticate is an exciting development in the ad validation space for lots of reasons.  First, it has the resources of Adobe behind it, a mammoth corporation with some seriously smart development talent which I hope will continue to build on the current offering.  Second, Adobe owns Flash, the mainstay creative format of virtually every form of desktop display rich media ad, which means it has more than its fair share of QA problems for publishers, and for which Adobe is best positioned to address.  Adobe understands this technology better than anyone else possibly could, so it’s exciting to see a technology owner enter the validation space.  Finally, after speaking with Adobe directly, it’s clear they have a forward thinking vision for where this technology can go, the potential applications, and the resources and clout to make it happen. (more…)

AdValidation – First and Still the Best in Ad Tag QA…For Now

Based out of Sweden of all places, AdValidation is the first and the best tool I’ve seen focused on ad tag QA to date, though because of their location, not many people outside of Europe are familiar with the company.  That’s a real shame, because the feature set is quite robust, and there are a number of smart, platform agnostic solutions in place to make workflow easier.  As many things like this start, AdValidation was actually developed as an internal tool for a Swedish ad network to help them address the issues of working with hundreds of various publisher specs in their own business before they realized it could be a standalone product on its own.  The benefit of course is that the tool has been battle tested, debugged, and enhanced by a real world customer.   (more…)

Ad Validation – Ad Tech Finally Comes to Ad Ops?

There are lots of reasons to be excited about what’s happening in the ad technology world right now from a business point of view, but from an Ad Ops perspective, the current landscape is pretty daunting.  For lots of folks at the implementation level, ad technology often means more integration projects, more complexity, more relationships to manage, and frankly, more work to pack into the day with the same amount of resources.  There are lots of tools and services being built for advertisers and publishers alike, but where’s the innovation for Ops teams on either side?

To date, with perhaps the exception of tag management solutions, I haven’t seen many products that seek to simplify the operational process for the direct sales channel – most everything seems focused on creating new, more complex products or bringing new, automated sales channels to market.  Those are fine goals, but I would submit that much like the years of neglect around resolving 3rd party discrepancies, the ad tech community has to date ignored a huge potential opportunity to make life easier for Ad Ops teams.  In the past few weeks, however it seems like that may be about to change.

Specifically, during IAB Ops 2011, Adobe announced their entry into the ad validation space with some fanfare, throwing some much needed attention and hopefully some serious resources on a little known service with tremendous possibilities but few solutions.  For those interested in learning more, I hope you’ll read my new series on the ad validation space to explain the need, the current solutions, and where the space looks to be headed in the future. (more…)