In our newest blog series, A Day in the Life at KORTX, we’ll discover what life is like working in the always-evolving digital advertising space. Whether you’re interested in a career in AdTech, want to learn more about programmatic, or are just curious about what’s happening behind the scenes at KORTX, then follow along as we dive into the digital deep-end.

Looking for Part II of this series? You can find it here.


ADITL: Bryan Presti, Programmatic Operations Part I

Bryan Presti

So what do you look at each day? An open-ended question usually deployed by someone with experience in programmatic operations to know that our daily workflow – its requirements, nuances, and swiveling-head alertness to real-time outcomes and optimization opportunities – differs from how they may attack the job.

The response, in order to maintain interest and minimize digressions, requires a condensing of an enormous amount of campaign inputs and outputs into a digestible, intelligent, and unique set of sound bites or case studies, hopefully lasting no more than a couple of minutes. Mercifully, this response can be longer.

What is it like to be a programmatic media buyer? 

Well, the context of one’s business model/strategy is important to our daily duties. There are two main types of programmatic teams a buyer works within: 1) A brand’s in-house buying team 2) A managed service team building and executing media plans on behalf of usually more than one brand or agency. 

There is a lot of overlap in the type of work involved in campaign execution across both teams, but a managed service partner’s portfolio usually includes dozens of brands, verticals, budgets, geos, KPIs, and target audiences. This reality introduces additional layers of campaign and operational complexity in comparison to executing programmatic digital media buys for a single brand.

Instead of selecting a campaign and walking through it from beginning to end, or giving an explanation of what I do each Tuesday or on the first and last day of each month (the two busiest days), I want to cover three areas where the “human touch” is required. These areas cover a range of tasks, from the tedious to the exhilarating, and include all conceivable combinations – platforms, partners, capabilities, goals, tools, people, budgets, data, and metrics that are a part of every campaigns’ execution.

The utilization of these campaign variables and all their differing combinations demonstrates that there is no blueprint approach to programmatic media buying for a specific key performance indicator, vertical, budget, media tactic, or creative type. A campaign’s framework – how a Demand Side Platform (DSP) structures its in-platform builds – is the closest we get to a defined framework. The capabilities of a DSP allow for that skeleton of a campaign to be “beefed” up via a wide array of granular inputs. 

Those inputs – emanating from programmatic media buyer’s experience, intuition, research, and analysis, as well as client requirements – are the differentiators that propel a campaigns’ success. And how many blends of variable inputs are there? That is an equation yet to be developed by mathematicians.

The following examples of a media buyer’s daily tasks range from the things a hiring manager has to creatively adjust to sound not-so-miserable in the job requirements portion of an open position, to moments of immense personal and collective gratification.

Some not-so-awesome aspects

No one wakes up each morning yearning to do these tasks, but they’re a requirement for all campaigns. One hundred percent of the campaigns you run will include all three of these responsibilities at some point:

Creatives

AAC, OGG, WAV, MOV, HTML5, DCM tags, VAST, VPAID, Javascript, JPEG, JPG, PNG, GIF, or SWF, 3G2 (3GPP2), 3GP (3GPP), Advanced Systems Format (ASF), Audio Video Interactive (AVI), F4A, F4B, F4P, F4V, FLV, M2V, M4V, MKV, MOV, M4P, MPE, MPEG, MPEG-2 (MP2), MPEG-4 (MP4), MPG, MPV, OGG, OGV, QuickTime (QT), RM, SWF, TS, VOB, WebM, and Windows Media Video (WMV) – all file and creative types for programmatic campaigns. Fortunately, if they meet the specifications of your DSP or ad server, all that needs to be done is load and attach. In some instances, you will have to provide a custom date range for them to run; you can attach creatives based on audiences or geo’s within a single campaign. Not a hard job, just mundane. You could receive five display banners for the entirety of the campaign, or you could have several dozens to swap out monthly. For operational efficiencies, managed service providers usually implement a creative cap based on budget or flight length.

Pacing

With a vast array of campaigns across clients, goals, and verticals, a plurality of your time is making sure these budgets pace appropriately and deliver within the timeframes agreed upon by all parties. A campaign tracker (I use excel) provides a framework to manually update pacing and see how it is trending based on where it should be within a flight. When updating my tracker, I always pull the following metrics: impressions, clicks, CTR, viewability, Revenue CPA (for conversion campaigns), CPM (clearing rates), and for audio and video, completion rates. Impression analysis is completed first. If the creatives are hosted in the DSP, make sure the line item is pacing as it should. If they are from an ad server, you must check delivery in the DSP and ad server. DSP and ad server delivery comparisons must be calculated as DSP impressions/ad server impressions, which provides the discrepancy which you will have to bake into your DSP budget. One hundred percent of the time, impression amounts in the DSP and ad server are not 1:1. Analyzing these basic metrics a couple of times a week allows for enough high-level campaign analysis to decide if further research is warranted, which may lead to any number of optimizations.

Troubleshooting

I’ll make the explanation of this not-awesome part of the job short because I’m already exhausted just thinking about it. In the tech world, where innovation is always pushing companies to develop new capabilities, and platform and partner integrations across thousands of companies is a reality that only gets more complicated by the day, everyone on the operations side has to be prepared to figure out why something isn’t working like we thought it would. Here is an abbreviated list of issues I guarantee will be dropped on your plate:

  • Inventory deals built and exported to your DSP failing to register impressions
  • Creatives failing audit
  • Slow campaign pacing
  • Partner pixels attached to ad server tags for 3rd party analytics tracking not working
  • Line item failing to deliver in full by $2
  • Clicks, conversions, viewability, and VCR discrepancies between DSP and ad server
  • Incorrect DSP click tag placement in the index.html file of an HTML5
  • A specialized creative built by one partner to be delivered on a different partners’ inventory deal not receiving delivery

I hope you get the picture because I can’t go on. These are the types of things that make me want to have a drink at 5:01 pm. If you’re wondering what my drink of choice is after a day of troubleshooting tag placements and reviewing VCR discrepancies, that would be my version of a Gin & Tonic:


If you want to learn more about Bryan, you can connect with him via LinkedIn. Check out Part II of our blog, where Bryan discusses his favorite aspects of working in Programmatic Operations along with a few optimization tips. Keep following our newest blog series, A Day in the Life at KORTX, to learn about all things digital advertising and the occasional cocktail recipe or two.