When you talk about ad ops, programmatic media buying, or account management, you often think about all the tedious grunt work that typically requires more people to scale. All the spreadsheets, browser tabs, Powerpoints, QA, photoshop work (ie. ad screenshots)… Unfortunately, it’s just what these folks are tasked with. They’re just keeping their head down and doing their jobs. But, if the sole purpose of a business is to be profitable, more people isn’t going to get you there.
Companies are being forced to think outside the box to figure out how they can automate some of these time-consuming activities. It’s a hot topic in the ad ops world.
What should I automate?
First off, let’s assume everything can be automated with enough time and resources (which is probably true). You simply need to figure out what should/can be automated first.
The lowest hanging fruit, as they say.
Consider tasks that you do every day (high impact) and that would require low effort to come up with a solution.
This might be paying for a product that solves this pain (we’ll get to a simple ROI equation next), or using some no-code tools (Zapier/Typeform/Airtable) to build a quick solution (in a day or two).
Find a product and try it out
Do your research and figure out if there are any products in the market that can help you automate the task. Do a simple google search, drop a question on the ad ops subreddit, ask an industry thought leader on Twitter, or ask current and past colleagues. People love talking about the tools they use because it gives them a chance to show how smart they are 🤣
Once you find a few options, try out the tools. If they don’t have a free trial, it might not be worth your time. If they don’t showcase any pricing on their site, it might be a red flag that it’s going to be super expensive, or that they’re focused on the enterprise. Remember, you’re focused on a high impact low effort solution. If it’s not easy to try/buy, move on.
A simple ROI equation
Here’s a super simple template for analyzing the ROI of time savings:
Average time spent on an individual unit of the task/activity = X minutes
Number of individual units per month = Y units
(X minutes x Y units) / 60 minutes = Z hours per month
Z hours per month / # of work days per month = hours per work day
*typically 20 work days per month
Now, if you consider how many people are needed to handle this many hours of the task, and if you know what their monthly hourly rate is, you can figure out your actual monthly cost on this task. If you can find a solution to mostly automate this task, and what the monthly cost is of that solution (ie. a paid subscription to a product), you now have your ROI 🎉
Ad screenshots ROI example
With Ad Reform we did a case study, which found that on average a person spent 10 minutes on each of the individual ad screenshots when done manually. So, if a team manually generates 1000 ad screenshots a month:
Average time spent on an individual unit of the task/activity = 10 minutes
Number of individual units per month = 1000 units
(10 minutes x 1000 units) / 60 minutes = 166.66 hours per month
166.66 hours per month / 20 = 8.33 hours per work day
You’d likely need to hire two full-time employees to do programmatic ad screenshots all day, or 5–7 employees spending large chunks of their days on this task (amongst all the other things they have to do). Even if you only paid these folks an intern’s hourly rate of $15, that’s going to cost you ~$5k-15k per month. This is an incredibly conservative amount. Imagine you were paying normal ad ops/campaign management salaries with a rate of $30-$40 per hour. This little task is getting really expensive when you run the numbers 🤕
Even if Ad Reform costs the team $1k-$2k per month for this volume of programmatic ad screenshots, that’s huge ROI!
Find a big win for your team
The examples I’ve given don’t even take into consideration the indirect cost of focus switching between all these manual tasks, nor does it consider the morale cost of doing the same tedious task over and over. The ROI is obvious and I guess that’s my point here. Find low hanging fruit, do your research, run an ROI analysis, and you can find some big wins for your team if you just take the time to think outside the box.