Ad Ops is short for Advertising Operations.

Online advertising is worth billions and billions of dollars. Just how many billions? In 2014, Tech Crunch published a report from ZenithOptimedia placing that year’s internet ad spend at $121 Billion. That’s 121 with nine zero behind it: $121,000,000,000. Another report places the revenue for online advertising at $52B with 65,000 companies employing 253,000 people. It’s a big industry.

We’ll be focusing primarily on the publisher side of ad operations. Broadly speaking, the ad ops person is responsible for making sure the right ads appear at the right time. Let’s look at some of the responsibilities:

Every organization is different and often these roles are filled by multiple people. Large organizations might have teams of 20 or more, while a small publisher might have one person who does everything


This task is centered around the ad server. As a trafficker, you typically receive creatives (the ads) and an IO (Insertion Order) that specifies the parameters of the campaign. Trafficking ads means setting up those campaigns in the ad server.


This is the task of collecting numbers from each advertiser’s own system, putting them all together, and perhaps making decisions based on that information. You might think that reporting would be completely automated – you would be wrong. The majority of advertising reporting systems are shockingly archaic.


This is the task of figuring out the number of ads meeting particular criteria that will be available during a certain timeframe. For example, “How many 300x250s are available on the homepage in October?” This can be very simple or very complicated depending on what you’re trying to figure out.


This is the task of figuring out what’s wrong with a particular ad. Maybe the ad is showing a blank space. Maybe the advertiser ordered 100,000 impressions/day and is only receiving 1,000 and you need to figure out why.


Blurring the lines, this is the task of making deals with advertisers. Some organizations have a dedicated outbound sales team that receives support from ad ops in the form of reports, forecasts and “can we do this?”. In smaller organizations, sales are primarily inbound (waiting to be contacted by an advertiser) and the Sales and Ad Ops roles may be the same person.

Accounting / Collections

Blurring the lines again, this is the task of invoicing each advertiser and making sure you actually get paid for the ads that ran. Fun fact, online advertising is usually paid Net-45 or Net-60, so you don’t get your money for two months!

Web Development

Blurring the lines again, many websites have a web developer, but if you’re doing everything yourself, this task may also fall on you. After the initial setup, additional web development tasks are rare, but may be required for complex executions such as specialized targeting, site skins, or infinite scroll.

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