Programmatic Ad Operations : A Beginners Guide

Ad Operations (Adops) is one of the key roles in the digital advertising world. For all its high tech, automation , creative campaigns and media planning , Adops remains mostly manual process. Any successful campaign manager, sales executive or Customer success manager, knows how to keep adops teams happy and satisfied. Adops teams are found as subsets of publishers or agencies digital sales or executions teams.

Heavily dependent on humans , Adops work requires real skills across multiple domains and technologies. Adops managers need to able to get in and out of context real quick, while managing numerous campaigns , stakeholders , clients and technology teams.

Each campaign usually comes with unique commitment requirements related but not limited to impressions and volume , Geo targeting, demographics , custom creative activation, Frequency capping , CTR, Viewability, CPCV, leads to be generated and so on. Therefore, Adops teams are generally madeup of specialists with varied skillsets like ad traffickers , Schedulers, Inventory managers, yield managers, vendor managers, technology operations.

Programmatic Adops needs even more complex skills apart from traditional /Direct sold campaign management . Here are a few pointers to get you started if you are looking for opportunities in this line of work. This is an indicative list. It will do you good to do your own research and build on the following starters.

Technology : Learn to

  1. Assess the impact of ads /creatives on Page load times
  2. Identify and disable ads that break the page or cause z-index issues
  3. configure Line item Priorities like Sposnorship, Price Priority ( When using Google Admanager)
  4. Tools like CharlesProxy and Fiddler
  5. Read and manipulate ad tags in the ad server
  6. Use browser developer tools on a live site
  7. confirm that the ad renders
  8. Identify 3rd-party pixels that are fired on a web page with or without an associated Ad request
  9. Measure how long an ad takes to completely load .i.e How long before an impression is recorded against an adrequest and or Bid response.
  10. Extract and interpret reports from adsever and monitor common discrepancies that are contested and their causes
  11. Optimise a campaign and Making good on under deliveries
  12. Pacing the campaigns
  13. Pass category information into the ad tag, Key_value Pairs
  14. Configure deal types like PG, PD, Private Auctions , waterfall
  15. Setup AMP and Facebook Instant Articles


  1. Various Industry Standards and benchmarks like View-ability, CTR, Skip ratios etc.
  2. Cookies and ADID, Privacy concerns and regulations , Cookie Crunching
  3. Ad specs for standard ad sizes and formats
  4. Ad fraud ,basic techniques of detecting and preventing ad fraud
  5. what are various attribution metrics like last mile conversions , Audience
  6. Seasonal effects on supply forecast
  7. How a website is structured and is translated by the ad server like adslot positions – ATF, BTF, MTF , Unknown
  8. Learn how to tag a website
  9. iframe, Safe frames, javascript, non-secure vs secure
  10. Add a 3rd-party data integration and DMP

Commonly used Terminology

  • CPM, eCPM, Ad request CPM, RPM
  • Fill rates and Coverage
  • Price Floors , reserve and Clearing Prices
  • Take rates , media Tax
  • CTR
  • VTR
  • SSP
  • DSP
  • Ad Exchange
  • SPO
  • Pipes
  • Header Bidding
  • Wrapper and Adapter
  • Open Bidding
  • oRTB
  • IVT and NHT
  • DMP
  • Audience Cohorts and Layering
  • Pre-Roll, Mid-Roll , Outstream Videos
  • OOP Units
  • IAB , oRTB and parameters
  • GDPR
  • CCPA
  • Passbacks
  • Media Server

If you are going to join an SSP or DSP, you also need to know about the following

  1. Ad request data structure .
  2. Parameters are passed in a bid stream and why are these required .
  3. Object Parameters are required for each demand partner for them to participate in an Auction. Check out Prebid Bidder Information page
  4. Difference in workings of Server Side (API) and Client Side (SDK) integrations
  5. Queries Per Second (QPS) and its impacts DSP Bid Responses.
  6. Bid Throttling
  7. Standard IAB terms and conditions for an IO and legalities like Warranty, Indemnity, SLAs, etc.
  8. How to study a brand’s Current Strategy/Go to market pitch ?

Deeper Technology areas

  1. Video transcoding requirements for different device types (Desktop / Mobile / OTT).
  2. Mobile device location : Significance of decimal points in Lat/Long.
  3. What constitutes PII impacts battery life, and speed of a website or an App on a device.
  4. VAST Vs VPAID and how different device types impact the yield
  5. VMAP and setting up video ad podding within a video stream. Although this link has some propitiatory info, its still quite useful and well explained

And Just for fun , try your hand on Microsoft excel using Pivot, Macros and Vlookup

The above list may seem overwhelming and exhaustive, you would come to enjoy learning these concepts and terms . After all this will decide if you can make a career in programmatic ops and Trading . No Pressure , really 🙂

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