Garbage In, Garbage Out: Why Smart Trafficking Matters So Much

joannaoconnelrevised“Marketer’s Note” is a weekly column informing marketers about the rapidly evolving, digital marketing technology ecosystem. It is written by Joanna O’Connell, Director of Research, AdExchanger Research.  

Last week, I had a wonderful conversation with an interactive lead at an independent agency as part of my ongoing “When and How to Take Programmatic In-House” research (for which I’ll be presenting the findings at our September Programmatic I/O conference), which reminded me of the hugely important, but wildly undervalued, importance of well organized operational efforts in effective media programs.

What do I mean by that?  Well in this instance, I’m talking specifically about naming conventions in campaign and placement set-up.  What this agency executive told me was:

“Analytics and operations are inevitably tied together. The operations side of it is super important: what you traffic in is what you get out. You must be really methodical in how you traffic things – you’ve got to be able to codify it in some way shape or form – which publisher, what placement, which audiences. We have an ability to meta-organize the data because of the way we have folks setting things up.”

In other words, if you don’t put garbage in, you won’t get garbage out. You’ll get intelligent, actionable cross-placement/media/client/agency data.

Back in my days with Razorfish’s early trading desk ATOM Systems, my team felt this pain all the time – we would see major inconsistencies in how individual teams named placements from one campaign to the next. Forget about across teams. It made our jobs tough – from a reporting standpoint, certainly, and from a higher-level campaign optimization standpoint as well.

This comment really made me wonder how far we’ve come in the agency world – and I am talking both within a given agency and across an agency holding company – in creating the standardization in naming and campaign set-up that is a pre-requisite for the kind of meta-analysis this agency executive was talking about.

So, community, let me know – whether you’re an agency person, a marketer working with an agency or a technology provider serving either – what are you seeing on the ground these days?  Is there the kind of discipline in naming and campaign set-up that facilitates the rich analysis we all crave?


Follow Joanna O’Connell (@joannaoconnell ) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter. 

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  1. The fatal flaw in all naming conventions is that they are implemented by humans. Correction, fallible human beings. While embedding “350×200” in a name might be useful, better is correct integration with the delivering system and proper selection of creative size from the set up page. Even better then that? Automated tag-to-creative meta analysis of all tags and content delivered.

    The agencies haven’t quite caught all the way up, yet, but for publishers using our system, meta data, both aggregated from multi-sourced data warehouses and analyzed directly from delivered tags allows for proper slicing and dicing for business intelligence purposes regardless of naming conventions.

    Of course, the publisher is in an even more chaotic situation than you were at Razorfish, they have their own internal naming convention to contend with along side the naming conventions of every agency they sell inventory to (remember, their picture isn’t clear until they see all sides of the delivery metrics in most cases).

    My observation? Naming conventions are better than none, but systems that provide you with the true details without relying on conventions are even better.

    Ad-Juster, Inc.

  2. Brian Krick

    A simple, yet astute observation on your part Joanna. I’ve seen several large agencies that leave naming up to the individual running the account. In my experience, most agencies worth their salt make some attempt at standardizing naming conventions. Compliance monitoring is where it often falls apart, particularly at large scale. The follow through has to include technology and process to monitor and address compliance to conventions across the enterprise.

  3. Joanna – this headline brought back memories for me too. In my agency days our traffickers used to occasionally make notes to themselves in the ad server placement names (!). They didn’t even realize that those notes would then come through reporting and interfere with analytics. Even a keystroke error in trafficking or a misspelling would cause hours of work every month to clean the data for analytics. Major frustration. My personal opinion is that no one should ever have to manually key any values into an ad server. The technology exists today to make this a reality – we just have to drive process to catch up with technology.