How to Pick an Ad Server – Part V: Training

Training is HUGE.  The Big 3 will charge you for training.  This is a negotiable item.  Not always but sometimes.  At least initial training.  But the Big 3, whose interfaces are complex and hard to use for a beginner will charge you every time you need to train someone new.  In an agency, let’s face it, the trafficking guy or girl is usually the lower person on the totem pole.  A new hire.  So these people usually need to be trained and when they get promoted a new person needs to get trained.  Unless it is a smaller agency where someone wears multiple hats and continues to run the ad server.  Find out about initial training when you are evaluating ad servers but also find out about ongoing training.  Find out about what it will cost to train people as you bring on new users.  Find out about what it will cost to train people as new features get added and what it will cost to have updated training when you want a refresher.  I bring this up because we have a very different perspective on this than the rest of the industry.  I am not tooting TruEffect’s horn and I try real hard not to do that on this blog.  To me, an ad server gets paid when a client uses the ad server.  Sure costs need to be kept under control and training and customer support are sources of potential rising costs.  But training builds knowledge in a user so that a user becomes more confident and uses the system, hence more ad serving, hence more revenue for the ad server.  So why charge for training?  We don’t generally charge for training, certainly not initial training, and we try to host monthly training classes on an as-needed basis so that clients can have refreshers whenever they need them.  Any time there is a new enhancement or release, we train all clients.  If a client calls in with a question to their dedicated Account Manager they get trained on that issue on the spot.  Other ad servers will sell you blocks of support time or training time to do the same thing – hidden costs you should look into during the sales cycle.  Again, not tooting a horn here.  What I am doing is providing you with insight so that you know what questions to ask.

Another aspect of training is to find out what you will train on.  What I mean is, will you train on a demo sandbox environment or will you train on your own campaigns?  It seems relevant to me because after all of your analysis and research, when you finally select an ad server, you are ready to go.  In fact most clients I work with are ripping and raring to go.  In fact, they are late with a campaign and are needing to get going now!  So training is an immediate need and so what you will be trained with IS important.  DC, Atlas and Mediaplex will train you in what is called a sandbox.  It is a demo environment where you will use fake campaigns and will be shown how to do things.  I don’t personally know what Zedo does.  But the best way to train is on your own campaigns and on your own data.  When you get trained, ask to get trained with a campaign that you need to get setup so that you kill two birds with one stone.  Usually you don’t even have time to do all of the training in one sitting by the time you finish your decision and that should be okay.  If you have spent as much time as most people on the selection process, an ad server should be willing to still put a little more time in with you and not simply flip you over to customer support so fast. 

My clients get trained in real-time, so to speak, on campaigns that they need to get setup.  Their dedicated Account Managers share a hosted environment wherein insertions are built, digital assets are loaded and placements are assigned.  Schedules are built and tags are sent together by the Account Manager and the client.  The training is conducted all while the campaign is completed so that they client is able to do real work while getting trained.  It is a good use of your time that way.  I tell my buyers this when I am selling to them, whether you work with me or not, make sure you get this from whatever ad server you work with.  Don’t let your valuable time get wasted with training in a demo environment unless you have that sort of time.  Negotiate detailed training on top of the contract for a time when you have it in addition to campaign setup training.

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