Liza Virissimo’s piece in iMediaConnection this morning does a stunning job of bringing to light the potential value of the trafficking role within an ad agency. But what a way to intro the position of trafficker than to describe a person as someone “…who spends his or her days performing a monotonous role filled with mundane tasks, and who is condemned to a career of dull operational jobs.”
The article argues that the Trafficker offers the agency expertise pertaining to campaign implementation, optimization maximization, and reporting effectiveness which can translate into proper client communication. Liza argues that this role should be better positioned in front of the client and leveraged during the planning process so that the trafficker can be even better in their role.
But the problem is in the very nature of the role. How many aspects of online advertising operations are comprised of band-aided techniques that have been slapped together over time, never organized or operationalized into an efficient set of procedures that maximize time and resources? The role of trafficker is probably the single biggest source of wasted time, resource and talent on the online advertising team.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Liza’s article points toward the potential of traffickers, the value locked up in the vault, but fails to point out the solutions.
Think about the evolution of the online advertising agency, or the online advertising operation within a larger agency. It started off with the red-headed step-child in the corner of the room with the tattoos and the ear rings that nobody understood. You sort of left him alone because it was edgy and not understoood. But new media was also something that you did to be different or because someone in the orginization had a gut feeling that you needed to go there. There weren’t any models to follow because all of the traditional ones simply didn’t fit. Media planning tools didn’t exist, trafficking tools didn’t exist and ad servers were coming in with their own models on how to do things.
And it grew. People were hired and things developed organically. Business plans were never written, or never followed. And things exploded. Some operations deployed ad servers and others went site-serving with creative, but all of them evolved (stressing the organic development approach here) their own internal operational models that heavily relied on the use of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.
Nobody stopped to say, okay we better plan out how we are going to run this place so we don’t grow out of control. Things were growing too fast and the money was flowing in and the clients were lining up and so there was no time. No time to plan. No time to get it organized.
So it came down to the applications that everyone knew how to use. Microsoft Excel. Spreadsheets were used to capture media plans and to keep track of budgets. As proposals came in from publishers on word docs and PowerPoint files, the meat of them were cut out and dropped into spreadsheets. Negotiations resulted in more spreadsheets. Creative were produced and the names of the files were listed on more spreadsheets. Creative and buys were matched up to create placements and trafficking documents were produced on, you guessed it, spreadsheets.
Then the “trafficking role” was created, the person who entered everything into the ad server, managed the campaign and the reporting. Plus, in the end, the data would be sucked back out of an ad server and dumped back into spreadsheets again. Who was going to hand a report with the ad servers header on it to a client!?! Nope, had to reformat everything. All of these steps were the dump-everything-else work in a bucket work that comprised the trafficking role.
Here is the crazy part … every agency devised their own way of doing this … their own spreadsheets … actually every employee within every agency – all the media planners and traffickers – they also created their own spreadsheets. No continuity.
THERE ARE MORE SPREADSHEETS IN THE AD AGENCY INDUSTRY THEN YOU CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE!
Why do I know all of this? How could I know all of this? Well for one thing if you are an ad agency person and you are reading this, you already know that I am right. You’re nodding your head and blushing in embarrassment because you know that it is freaking scary how discombobulated your agency is alone. If one media planner walks out and gets hit by a bus, another media planner can’t simply pick up where she left off because she first has to figure out his spreadsheets!
TruEffect spent a year studying this situation during our R&D phase of our next generation ad server, TruAdvertiser.xls™. And then we built our ad server in Microsoft Excel with a consolidated set of spreadsheet templates that enable ad agencies to conform to a unified set of procedures that mirrors the most common set of procedures in practice today. It’s not the one-size fits all model, because they are customizable spreadsheets. And because it is Microsoft Excel, you can tweak the look, feel and format of the workbooks to better suit your needs. But it is Microsoft Excel which is clearly the most widely used application in the industry.
So Liza talks to us about the role of trafficking. And she helps us see the potential value of this individual to the team. But the trafficking person is so heavily bogged down receiving multiple media planning workbooks – all in different formats from different media planners – and working with different trafficking documents that they waste tremendous time. Then there is the BIG time-drain. Traffickers manually enter placements into ad servers. Yikes! Manual labor.
That is crazy. In this day and age it would be better served to upgrade to Windows Vista and “speak” the inputs into an ad server than to type them in. Kidding. Who knows if Microsoft finally got the voice recognition thing right.
It’s just crazy to think that in 2007 the speed at which you can type is still so important. Technology solutions should be racing ahead and doing this kind of trivial work for us! And it can.
DART has a bulk upload worksheet. If you take the bulk upload Excel spreadsheet they provide and key in your placements you can upload to DART your placements. It spits out an attempt to match your publisher entries with their data-based publishers so you can accept/reject and then it assigns campaign ID’s. You match up and re-upload and then (hopefully) you’re done. Your buys are in the system. Then you login to DART, upload your creative and match everything up one-at-a-time and your placements are set and off you go. So, PART of the process can be automated. Your insertions can be automated. But you still have to match creative to insertion to create placements.
With DoubleClick, if you use MediaVisor (their media planning suite), then you can automate more. But few agencies want to shift their entire media planning, buying, RFPs and I/O process onto DC’s system unless they are wholly running on DC. Everything is locked up on their servers and you have no in-house records of anything. An ASP model gives you no ownership of your operational data and that’s scary. What if you stop using MediaVisor one day? You walk away from all of your records. Or you pay handsomely to get some flat-file format that you have to pay even more money to make usable.
A lot of agencies use more than one ad server or – like I described before – are still embedded in their band-aided operation of Microsoft Excel and can’t climb out of that deep dark rabbit hole. There just is not time to stop and fix the problem. Must charge forward and ‘deal with it later.’ So using MediaVisor would mean divorcing from the Excel environment that everyone is familiar with. Huge training costs, loss of knowledge and major decrease in efficiency until every becomes familiar and efficient again. Unlikely transition.
Atlas has a bulk upload worksheet that works in a similar way to DC. Your insertions can be uploaded but then you still have to create your placements one at a time as well. Atlas DMT’s media planning suite offers additional integration but you have the same issues as MediaVisor. However I do hear that their RFP tools are better.
So the problem, back to the trafficker, is the rest of the process. I have bolded the parts that we can fix with automation below, the parts that represent the BIGGEST waste of time:
1. Generate tags for advertiser’s web site
2. Manage tagging of advertiser’s web site
3. Receive the Trafficking worksheet
4. Enter the insertions (buys) into the ad server
5. Up load create (one at a time or in bulk) into the ad server
6. Match create to insertions to create placements (one at a time)
7. Assign unique click-thru URLs
8. Set start/end dates of placements
9. Set placement weights, min/max, targeting, etc.
10. Traffic tags
11. Launch campaign
12. Generate reports
13. Rotate creative
14. Optimize campaign
If we eliminate the manual tasks and automate processes, we give the trafficker MORE time to do things that require thought: strategic work that can have a greater impact on the campaign’s performance and deliver greater value to the client.
TruEffect’s TruAdvertiser.xls™ allows a user to upload insertions from Microsoft Excel in bulk, like the other ad servers I have described – STEP 4. But then the automation continues.
STEP 5 – Creative can be dragged-and-dropped across the spreadsheet and directly uploaded to the ad server in bulk as well. Rich media, traditional media, whatever. The creative library is visible from within Excel and the list of creative properties (name, file type, etc.) appear in the spreadsheet.
STEP 6 – My favorite part of TruAdvertiser.xls™ is the automation of placements. TruAdvertiser.xls™ empowers a user to create all possible placements in one click. Why other ad servers can’t thoughtfully do this is beyond me. They have all the information to make these sort of decisions. But they dont do it.
in TruAdvertiser.xls™, the user Drags-and-drops the creative file over the spreadsheet to the insertion list and the ad server automatically assigns every ad to every dimensionally possible site/site section insertion. So all possible placements are made. Then a user simply deletes placements that are not desired, which only takes a matter of minutes as the spreadsheet list can be sorted by any column header.
Placement weighting is simple. Rotation assignments, starts/stops, targeting – everything is just a couple of clicks following the quick-fill creation of the campaign schedule. The amount of time saved in building a campaign schedule through this tool is significant. Really significant.
STEP 10 – Trafficking tags should be automated with any of the top ad servers. If yours doesn’t do it, find another one. An ad server should auto-generate tags and send them to publishers. They should give you the option of sending them to you or to the publisher or both.
STEP 12 – Campaign Reports should be automated as well. The days of going into a report queue and selecting from a menu of HTML report lists are over. You should be able to build custom reports, slap your logo on there and have them ready for you whenever you want them on the fly. Reports should be client-ready. There is NO reason why you should be building and re-formatting reports over and over again. This is ABSOLUTELY a huge waste of time and if your trafficking person is doing it, change this!
Some ad servers will push reports to you by email. But if they still require formatting that is a problem. If they are not client-ready you are not saving enough time.
I don’t know of any other solution … and I SWEAR I have been looking … that accomplishes this other than TruAdvertiser.xls™. The reports are all in Microsoft Excel to begin with. A user builds their reports one time using pivot tables and graphs, so the analysis capabilities are extensive. They format the reports one time, and ad any logos or other elements they want and save them. From that point forward any advertiser, brand or campaign can be viewed for any time period in that report right on the desktop. The data is drawn in by Microsoft Excel live, in real-time. No reformatting of report again. Build as many tabs in a single workbook as you want and you’re good to go.
STEPS 13 + 14 – Creative Rotation and Campaign Optimization are both automated features of any qualified ad server. They are inherently different and a good ad server manager should understand this. Creative rotation involves the use of weighting, storyboarding and mins/max displays. Optimization can be manual or automated. Careful with auto-opt as if you are too aggressive you will burn through your creative. Make sure you are auto-optimizing on the right metric.
So back to the trafficker. By no means do I propose the elimination of the role but the elevation of the role. Give that person the tools that s/he needs to break free of the data-entry tasks. Give him the ability to streamline tasks that don’t need to be done manually and let him take back brain-power so that he can be a contributor to the strategic side of the team. A trafficker with more time could become an analyst of the data who can make decisions and a source of solid recommendations on the media buy process during the campaign, when it comes to renewing placements. She can offer the team creative input and interface with the client with optimization recommendations pertaining to new placement-creative combinations.
While we might expect these things from an Ace-trafficker already, they can’t possible be effective when they have so little time! Recapture their time with good technology.
Want to know more? Look at Hidden Media Costs Associated with Online Advertising (Ad-tech) – Some Real Good Data
Think about Liza Virissimo’s piece in iMediaConnection, “…[she] who spends her days performing a monotonous role filled with mundane tasks, and who is condemned to a career of dull operational jobs…” won’t be satisfied in that job, won’t work very hard over a prolonged period of time and probably won’t stick around very long. There is a reason why the trafficking role is the entry level job with the highest level of turn-over. People get the experience they need and get the hell out of there. But if you make the role less monotonous and more fulfilling, more meaningful and challenging, you will be building a career path within your organization.
Reactionary with Insight.
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