Ad Ops – The New Custodians of Compliance and the Final Line of Defense

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The story so far: One result of the hyper growth of the digital ecosystem means there is an increased need for content and for websites to house that content.  This creates more opportunities for an ad supported business model and for a skilled ad ops team to measure results. A key component of this environment is the importance of a value exchange between brands and the data they collect about user activity, which if done respectfully and ethically and is fair to people and brands creates trust. If not done respectful and ethically, drives regulation like CCPA.

Ad ops is a specialty that continues to evolve, sitting at the heart of digital channel activation and platform connections. Ops specialists have a sprawling mind palace of interconnected data corridors and hold the keys to access. When GDPR – the predecessor to CCPA – landed, it was a comprehensive data governance, data protection, and accountability law that agency teams and clients to map against their ad ops practices. Lawyers especially were being introduced to ad ops, like two alien species learning to communicate for the first time.

One positive outcome of first contact between lawyers and ad ops highlighted the important role we can play in educating teams and helping govern degrees of legal compliance. This is especially important when it comes to controlling and casting those “digital nets” that measure media and audiences. Or at least it should have. Usually all roads lead to ad ops in the world of digital media, but if not, I strongly suggest your lawyers grab a decent sized coffee with the ops team lead. Be prepared to hear the word “tag” a lot.

Likewise, for those of us working in ad ops, it is challenging to think about additional responsibilities. However, our knowledge and workflow uniquely positions us to govern.  We can apply the diligence and accountability that benefits brands, people, and the evolution of the specialty. And we are not just talking tagging.

Ad ops team members at Kinesso must have a fundamental understanding and respect for the ethics of what they do. That is respect people, data quality, and the consequences of each connected platform/ad tech, both short- and long-term. Without this foundation of accountability and governance, it is difficult to build and maintain the essential element of trust.  As the timeless saying goes, “Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair.”

1. Ad ops needs to adhere to data ethics and digital responsibility and hold itself and its agency accountable. Transparency and accountability are at the core of digital responsibility. Make a blueprint of that mind palace! Often client’s ad tech connections are not mapped out. Or those that are, must be regularly reviewed and updated. It will help identify blind spots and DPAs gone MIA. Ad ops must be tightly connected with your digital responsibility and data ethics teams. Every member of your ad ops team should have a basic understanding the applicable law, regulations and codes of conduct that apply to ad tech. There are specifics under CCPA and GDPR that require special attention. We recommend you designate a champion on your ad ops team to take the lead on these specifics. Ad ops, because they are hands-on the code, plays a critical role in translating between policy requirements and operational practices. This operational expertise exposes critical blind spots, such as piggybacking or JavaScript used beyond permitted purpose.

2. Balance administrative controls, such as critical sign off steps, without impacting SLAs. SLAs should be realistic and account for the time and steps needed to practice good governance.

3. In addition to administrative controls, you should implement as much technical control as possible.  Tag management tools are fundamental.

4. Being digitally responsible is more than “check the box” legal work. At Kinesso, we have launched a Digital Responsibility program which is at the intersection of data ethics, legal, and security. We partner with this team of experts, and we recommend this for everyone.

At Kinesso, we have seen ad ops services evolve and expand diversely these last few years including some services spinning off into specific disciplines. The above foundations apply to all. Ad ops are the last line of defense to ensure activations are people first, ethical, accountable, safe, and secure.

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