In an industry that classifies itself as the business backend of advertising showbiz, even the most ardent of ad ops professionals will concede that monetizing traffic, optimizing CPM yield and managing the private marketplace are the lower hanging fruit. Ad ops is an underserved community that has to deftly blend commercial pressures with technical pragmatism.
These pros, like Ryan McConaghy, head of revenue operations at The Atlantic, turn the promises of insertion orders and pageviews into profit that funnel into salaries. With U.S. digital ad spend surpassing offline (totaling $130 billion this year, per eMarketer), the importance of ad ops professionals cannot be underestimated. It’s still a rapidly evolving and often overlooked role.
“My mom still doesn’t know what I do,” McConaghy said.
No one had a shoulder to lean on while monetizing sites. It’s one reason why McConaghy founded the HappensInAdOps community, aka happensinadops.
In 2012, the nonprofit advisory emporium, or as McConaghy describes it as “group therapy for ad ops professionals,” acted as the conduit between organizations’ engineering and sales teams. Now, this community takes form in the guise of a Reddit and Slack channel comprising almost 20,000 professionals from around the globe, as well as a newsletter that reviews industry developments. McConaghy said sometimes only a GIF can adequately voice the frustrations an ad ops role can emote.
“I think that this is because a little bit of my brain is broken,” he explained.
“I messed up a [$250,000] Super Bowl campaign, and we couldn’t bill for it, and that’s the kind of story that every single person in ad ops has to share,” McConaghy recounted. It’s the kind of war story that gets shared on the happensinadops forum.
“One thing I learned from that [and received advice from] is never to copy and paste from an Excel file into Word docs,” he said.
How He Got the Gig
It was the widespread support, tips and virtual group hugs that helped arm McConaghy with the insight and confidence to apply for his current day job, a role he describes as his big break. “Now I have the confidence and freedom to follow through with my beliefs and not have to spend my time doing quick yield hits which come at the sacrifice of the user experience,” he said. “Here, I’m allowed to think more than one quarter ahead.”
Commercial team members may not be aware, but the success or failure of a campaign they book can often rest on the efforts of their ad ops co-workers. So, McConaghy advises better communication between such teams. In his words: “Trust your ad ops person that when they say ‘no,’ it’s not because we like saying ‘no.’ … The best sales reps I’ve ever worked with understand how all this works together, so take your ad ops person to lunch.”