Ad Operations is the dark horse of advertising technology. AdOps roles might not seem all that glamorous until you realize what they do. If you want a movie metaphor, then we’ll have to go with The Expendables 2… mostly because the team in Part II includes Chuck Norris.
There you have it. A specialist team. And they are tasked with the most important of all objectives. Each person on the team plays a part in maximizing, growing, and optimizing ad revenues. Like the Expendables, it often takes a team with a range of specialties and tools to do the job.
We’re going to zero in on some of the most powerful AdOps tools. If you can’t find stuff you want to add to your toolkit here, maybe you’re just not cut out for AdOps? Disclosure: The technical complexity varies. Just keep in mind that ad operations includes many different roles and specialties.
Let’s find out what these insiders of the ad world are using behind the scenes. A big shoutout to our Ad Op colleagues at Reddit who collect the best tools – in between sessions of debunking conspiracy theories. They’ve been building out a comprehensive list of everything they’re working with.
Here’s our list of top AdOps tools
Figure out how to use all of these and you’ll likely be cast in Stallone’s upcoming Expendables 4. Or perhaps he’ll just let you run his digital ad campaign. Probably just the ad campaign, but don’t stop dreaming big. You’re an AdOps pro, after all. That’s kinda like a super power if you’re really good at it.
You get to play reverse engineer with ShowMyCode. Many ads are still in Flash format. ShowMyCode just so happens to be what is called a decompiler. That means it exposes the code that is included in the ad. It lets you see what your competitors are doing and dig out stuff like the click tag. I.e. the destination URL where clicking their ad will send you.
Clearly we’re placing AdNgin in spot #2 out of a immense demonstration of modesty. AdOps pros are finding out about us quickly. Remember, optimization is a core component of ad operations strategy. Given that our specialty is ad revenue optimization through continuous testing, you can guess why.
Video ads are surging. As an AdOps team, you have to make sure that everything is ready to go in the correct formats. Fortunately, working with digital video isn’t as painful as it used to be. Miro is a streamlined video conversion application. You can batch convert your video ads to any format, of any size, for any device.
At some point you’ll be editing the parameters of ad URLs manually. But all URLs have to properly encode their data (or parameters). Likewise, for URLs that are already encoded, you might want to extract the data within them. Either way, a URL encoder/decoder tool will offer everything you need.
You know Neilsen. They’re the ones watching what you watch. They collect consumer data. This handy map just so happens to give you some quick stats on US consumer concentration by city. Just hover and you get an idea of homes with TVs.
Are there really any without them – that don’t involve the wearing of tinfoil hats? That’s pretty much a baseline for your target consumer (i.e. the tvs, not the tinfoil hats). But you’ll have an idea of how concentrated each market is and make decisions based on that data.
The two core ingredients of the data era are (1) the data availability, and (2) the data accessibility. As more and more data comes online, it’s our APIs that open it up to convenient access. AdOps people love data. They immediately start figuring out how that data helps them gain an advantage.
Using an API can help make that advantage integrated and automated. Apigee’s API Console is a basically a search engine to find the top available APIs. If you need something specific, start searching there.
Finding a video tag validator that works for all video tags is a mission appropriate for Ethan Hunt. We know, we checked. That being said, VideoHub’s tag validator is one of the best for the simple reason that it works with most tags.
Play nice with this tool and don’t get yourself in trouble. Sometimes during your initial setup, you’re going to want to test the ads getting generated by your ad code. It’s a quick way to see how the ads are cycling. And it’s great for testing out your ad servers or impression discrepancies.
DFP macros are basically string replacements in your ad code. The ad server detects these strings and replaces them with data. It makes stuff dynamic and changeable. With the Macro Generator, you can construct your revised ad code with new macro strings.
Retargeting follows you around the web. This Retargeting test page will review if your browser has been tagged by MediaMind. Check it out. I bet you’ll see that you are. You can also use this as a debugger tool for the retargeting pixels being fired on your website. How? clear your cookies and enter your website or any other website. Then see what retargeting pixels are being fired.
Fiddler is a downloadable application from Telerik. It has a complex and powerful feature set. But one of the most useful is being able to track and observe your http/https network traffic. This allows you to watch ads load and each of the URLs that are accessed during that loading process.
VAST stands for Video Ad Serving Template. If you paste in your VAST ad tag in this Google tool, it’s verify that your video ad will work. It will also load your tracking URL to simulate an ad impression. Be warned, this tool is notoriously buggy and doesn’t work with every VAST tag you paste in. Try it yourself and see if it works for you. If you have a better one to suggest please leave the name in the comments section below.
Ad snippets are jumbles of code. Of course you can get great at reading them. But it’s very unlikely you’ll get as good as this tool at comparing them. The idea is simple. Drop your ad code or ad URL into one box, and the one you want to compare into the second. When you compare, it’ll show the lines that differ and highlight the text that varies.
Sometimes you need to add multiple different trackers to some ad code, either URL based (JS) or pixel. Sometimes you can do this directly. At other times, it’ll be easier to accomplish by combining those multiple URLs or tracking methods into one. This is what the Multiple Survey URL Creator tool is designed to do for you.
#15 AdTag Preview
HTTP headers are the data that is sent directly back to your browser that you don’t get to see. It’s information about the server that is communicated with every request. But its payload includes a lot of technical information. When you see to see what is being transferred, this AdOp tool is will show you what is being sent back.
#17 Your Browser
The technical capabilities of your current browser matters, especially when you’re debugging. If you’re a tech or have a technical team, this becomes particularly useful in bug reporting scenarios. The tool shows all of your current browser configuration in a table.
This one peers deep into the heart of every Flash creative. No really, it will give you a full report on the inner details of a provided Flash ad file (by upload or link). It’ll report the URLs it contains and ActionScripts. But, it’ll also alert you to any embedded malware or security holes.
This will not help you with the state of your desk. That’s up to you or a coworker who had enough of your dust pile, nest of post it notes, and leaning tower of mostly-empty Diet Coke cans. What this tool really does is quite simple, but a very useful quick utility. Paste in your HTML code and it will clean it up by removing any unnecessary spaces and lines in your code. If you have an OCD programmer in your office, that will appease them.
Complete is a professional tool with a subscription. You’ll need to be prepared to have a budget in place to take full advantage of it. It offers a comprehensive way to analyze your competitive sites. The member of your team that likes this tool most probably wanted to be a private detective at some point in their life.
Don’t underestimate what can be learned from your competitors. Lack of awareness of competitors is one of the biggest warning signs for a new or existing business that is destined for decline or failure. Digging into what your successful competitors (those playing in your niche the best) is essentially having them do a heap of work for you. They unwillingly become your strategic data source. But just remember that they’ll be watching you too.
AdClarity gives you tools to access some of the most important data AdOps pros can get their hands on. Similar to Complete.com, this utilizes strategic analysis of your competitors.
In particular, you can watch out for who your competitors are working with – in terms of advertisers. That becomes your high value advertiser prospect list. But the tools allow you to do much more. You can find out the SSPs, DSPs, ad networks, and ad exchanges your competitor is using.
They might have spent a million dollars or more in operational investment, building a blueprint that you can see with tools like AdClarity!
Ad quality is a big issue with publishers and advertisers so it can’t be too surprising that there’s a plethora of tools for dealing with malware. Geoedge reduces the risk of working with third party demand sources by preserving a clean, safe and engaging user experience. GeoEdge also knows how to detect those annoying redirect hijacks that low quality demand sources may use.
An easy to use cost per mille calculator
Surprisingly, it’s a click through rate calculator. Plug in your impressions delivered, clicks, and you get your CTR.
If you’re catching onto a theme here that’s because these calculators are part of the Ad-operations tool calculator suite, which also includes three more calculators detailed below. For this calculator, you plugin gross ad spend, commission, and tax and the calculator plugs in cost to client and the invoice amount.
Plugin in your CPM and CTR to receive your eCPC.
Same as above except the product is eCPM instead of eCPC.
This is a premium HTTP sniffer tool. It isn’t cheap, but it is powerful. If HTTP header was an easy to use tool for passing along header data, httpwatch is more of complete suite of QA tools. Features range from a web debugging tool to an analytics dashboard and automated http testing.
We talked about HTTP headers as being a part of the data sent directly to your browser. Web cookies is another type of data stored on your browser and communicated back and forth with the server. These are a part of the fundamental nuts and bolts of digital ads (and the entire modern web experience). One of the best tools to actually observe the cookies that are being set and reset (and sent back and forth) is to use the Firefox browser with the “FireCookie” add on. It will show you the entire cookie exchange happening.
#30 RichFLV Flash Editor
RichFLV is an FLV (Flash format) file editor. So if you have a video or interactive ad in FLV format, this tool lets you make the desired edits. Try it out. There are many places from where you can download this tool but we decided not to link since there is no one designated site.
AdOps is Complex, But These Tools Are Powerful
AdOps is complex. It’s an exciting and growing field that relies on a lot of technical expertise development – and the ability to collect data to use for strategic decision making.
If you are working in AdOps, you’ll fall generally into one of three categories (with a whole bunch of overlap): technical tools, data collection/analysis, and execution (i.e. making use of it all). The first being the most complex of a role in the ad operations space.
Our 26+ tools focus primarily on the first two categories. We’ve given you great technologies and tools or services to get some powerful data. Get familiar with this list. While it might not be something you can ramp up on in just a few weeks, it is something that you can refer to as you progress with your AdOps strategies.
When you encounter a particular tech related challenge or find yourself needing data, which of these tools might be the solution? Check them out and make sure that you’re familiar with the basics of what they do. We expect you’ll be using several of them in the near future.
Let us know the ones you think you can use right now. And also share with us your must-have AdOps tools that didn’t make our list.