Revolutionizing Ad Tech Starts with People

In media, there are a few preconceived notions about ad tech. Many simply view ad tech as software automation, zeroing in on the bits and bytes of tech. In reality, whether it’s maintaining the client relationship or ensuring the products are maximizing the client’s goals, people remain at the epicenter of ad tech. It’s vital that we shift away from seeing ad tech employees as mere data conduits and start seeing them as the strategic professionals they are.

Last year, my company took a deeper dive into this issue alongside Digiday, surveying almost 400 professionals on both sides of the advertising industry. One key finding from the research was that more than 40 percent of respondents planned to leave their current position within a year.

Are we not giving our people reasons to stay, or is the state of the current job market simply making it easy for them to leap from job to job? More importantly, how can we keep them around for the long term? I believe it begins with creating a culture in which employees feel that their jobs are meaningful.

Many ad tech companies started off believing that the model of success is three-pronged – spread across the customer, the salesperson, and technology. In reality, there are very few companies that deliver products in ad tech that are 100 percent self-serve. Ad tech businesses need people with strategy, service, and media backgrounds who can intelligently leverage tech that will help their clients succeed.

Here are four ways ad tech companies can boost employee engagement and change the conversation around ad tech:

Don’t Focus Solely On the End Results.

It can be easy to lose sight of “the work” (i.e., how a team came together to generate results for a client) – after all, it’s not just some computer churning out results. There’s a heartbeat behind the production; without it, marketing campaigns lose their energy. Regardless of the results (and before you move on to the next task), engage your teammates. Talk about what made that project significant, and get some ideas flowing for future improvements. Learn from mistakes that happened.

Create Forums for Communication

Spreading your company across multiple cities doesn’t have to result in lengthy email threads or “missed connections.” Does your organization have forums for people to interact and connect with one another, regardless of location? Creating a community that’s working toward the same goal is crucial for customer unity and strengthening employee loyalty.

Once a quarter, our company reviews the best of the best of the campaigns that we run. We form a committee of experts in diverse areas of media to look at our best campaigns. Then, we hold an open discussion with the people who actively worked on these campaigns, as well as a Q&A session. We then vote on the best campaign, with the winning team receiving a major reward. It’s a great way to take stock of the work we did over the quarter and share our thoughts.

Shine a Spotlight on Accomplishments

People get a buzz from being recognized, and that buzz encourages them to keep going. In fact, studies show that employees feel more engaged when they feel they’ve contributed to their company’s success. Leadership teams can affirm those feelings through timely recognition. At the very least, develop a culture of appreciation in which people need to verbalize their gratitude.

On a larger scale, our company implements a quarterly bonus based on overall company performance, in addition to other end-of-year bonuses that take into account personal performance. We want to celebrate both individually and as a team.

Honor the Career Path

In many cases, people are happiest in a situation where they feel they’re growing, developing, or getting better at something. In the context of the business world, ambitious job candidates want to map their career path – which is a major opportunity for growth. Examine whether there’s an opportunity for lateral movement and skills development? When we invest in our employees, we want them to know that our company and our leaders are committed to making them better versions of themselves.

The term “ad tech” doesn’t completely capture what the industry is about. The people are the ones powering the machines. If more companies in our industry put a little more focus on employees and their development, they’d see advertising technology fulfill its potential to change the way we do business. People should be the priority — they have been since our industry’s beginning.

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Written by:
Scott Neslund is the EVP of media services for Centro and oversees its client services units. Scott has more than 20 years of experience leading media and digital agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
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