If The Entire Industry Is Consolidating And Streamlining, Should You?

jaclynstewartThe Sell Sider” is a column written for the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Jaclyn Stewart, senior director of publisher services at The 614 Group.

The concept of consolidation, and which burgeoning conglomerate will rule all ads in the future, is dominating 2016 headlines. Will it be Facebook and Google? Maybe Amazon? Will telecom companies up their ante and become big players?

The answer is yet to be seen, and we are still likely a few years away from the industry getting clarification. Regardless of whether or not you think mass consolidation is good or bad for the industry as a whole, there is general agreement that even with so much noise in the space – and with little synergy between solutions – some consolidation is necessary.

The ad tech industry has become a plethora of standalone platforms and plug-in technologies. Very few products on the market – be it a rich-media design platform or a server for native advertising – provide more than one service or power multiple kinds of ads or functions.

The end result can be crippling to a publisher’s operations team. Tasked with bringing new, never-been-done-before offerings to clients, product and development teams look to the vast ad tech landscape for new solutions they can bring to the table to meet their ideation goals.

At the same time, sales and marketing staff rush to market with excitement about the new and shiny opportunity that’s undoubtedly perfect for the RFP someone just received, and even though the details haven’t been fleshed out yet, it needs to be included on the proposal due today. On a parallel track, operations and tech teams implement new tools and systems to serve, track and measure sites, products and audience.

The end result to all this is a fractured “Franken-workflow” that costs publishers in three major ways: organizational health, excessive third-party vendor and licensing fees and a lack of control over how clients are serviced.

This tech “noise” at a macro level has been distressing most of the industry on some level for more than a decade, but for entry- and mid-level folks at the micro level, the struggle has been real for some time.

It would be challenging to find an operations team today that’s not struggling under the weight of pulling and merging manual reports from multiple servers and platforms. They must also contend with complicated campaign setups and manage delivery against viewability, verification and third-party discrepancies. The industry moves quickly and has steadily added new complications without adequately solving for existing issues, leaving an extremely manual and time-consuming workflow in its wake.

The result for the organization that must execute under these complex restraints is low employee morale, long hours, little time for employee professional development and high attrition. To some degree publishers are at the mercy of the partners and campaign parameters set by clients. While they can’t always control the external pressure, they do have control over the amount of internal pressure placed on teams that execute campaigns.

This stress on workflow and multiple processes needed to manage all these vendors and platforms also makes it difficult for publishers to control the manner in which they service clients. They have to deal with vendors’ turnaround times, processes and – too often – mistakes. Not to mention publisher’s overworked staff can’t always remember the different processes they need to follow. As a result, the margin for error begins to widen rapidly.

But there are ways to take back control over workflow and processes. Publishers can also free up time for their staffs to focus on executing high-level tasks proactively and save money on unnecessary vendor fees.

Publishers can, for example, closely and strategically manage the product catalogue. For every product added that introduces a new workflow or diversion from process, they should phase out an underperforming product.

An annual technology audit can assess what is working and what isn’t. Publishers should meet with vendors to ensure products are being used to their fullest extent. Taking an active role in the partnerships an organization has with vendors is key to extracting the most value.

Being an active partner also allows for innovation around new offerings. Publishers should ask representatives about new offerings on the horizon and how to leverage new features or releases to better service clients.

Lastly, when planning to implement mass changes to process or technology, publishers should always work backward. Set goals and objectives first before finding the technology that meets more than one of those needs.

The effects of deploying these strategies will hit the three things every leader in the industry should care about: happier staff who better service clients, which drives higher revenue.

Follow Jaclyn Stewart (@614GroupJackie), The 614 Group (@614group) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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