You may not be familiar with the term Exverus, but for Jack Win’s team, it’s the core pillar behind everything they do. With a literal translation of “from the truth,” it was carefully chosen by his founding partner, Bill Durrant, based on its important relationship to their business culture and the advertising mindset as a whole.
But it’s also closely tied to the ability to understand the media process, which Jack emphasizes is driven by communication and transparency. So we spoke with him and the experts at Assemble to dive a little deeper into how media works and everything clients need to consider when handing off files to a media team — complete with a handy checklist. Check it out.
Jack, first tell us a little about your experience in media that led you to your current role as Head of Operations at Exverus Media?
Ever since he was a kid, Jack knew he wanted to be in marketing and advertising. “I went into college knowing that’s what I wanted to do, but I’ve always been very business-focused too, so I double-majored in International Business and Marketing. I started my career after college on the publisher advertising side. I was part of a smaller team, my role was a lot more varied in different aspects of the process, which allowed me to really learn the backbone of digital media and ad operations on a deeper level.
“From there, I moved on to a larger publisher in a more specialized role as Campaign Manager, which taught me a lot about how to deal with volume and manage time and quality when there’s a lot of work to be done. When I eventually moved into the agency side, my company didn’t have an ad operations department at all, giving me the opportunity to help build that out and really find my role in overall operations. It was during this time, I met Bill, and along with Talia, our Head of Strategy & Planning, that we decided to go for it. Five years later, we have a quickly growing team and the title of AdAge Small Agency of the Year, 2020.
What have been the most recent trends/technologies that have shaped the world of digital media today?
“The biggest thing to come out of the past year is definitely the huge pivot to remote work,” Jack shared. “It totally shifted how things are done, especially in digital media. In one aspect in the area of SAAS (software as a service), you’ll notice everything is becoming a software as a service; from buying things online to holding conferences through Zoom. Then on the other side, you have major updates to security protocols designed to protect both business and private data. With everyone working from home on personal computers, companies also aren’t able to keep their information behind corporate firewalls or security systems. So security protocols for home office use have had to be tightened.
“Another is privacy compliance. Heading into 2020, everyone was scrambling for GDP and CCPA compliance. And what we’re seeing is that it’s fast-forwarding the obsoletion of the tracking pixel. So how we’re going to analyze where the data is coming from in the future is a big conversation moving forward.
“With the shift to digital, we also have tons more data coming in than we know how to process. With this continued glut of information in this vast ecosystem, it’s becoming harder for people to manage. This is where AI steps in. It crunches the data for us and provides usable information. But it’s still very much in the beginning stages — we’re going to see major headway made here in the future.”
What are the 5 or 6 most important items that agencies should provide media teams for asset handoff in the production process?
If you take away anything from this article, it’s this. Jack collaborated with our team to help us create a checklist of the key steps to executing a more efficient and successful asset handoff:
1. The Planning Brief. This is the backbone of what is going on with the overall campaign and gives everyone involved the blueprint of what they need to do. It gets everyone pointed in the same direction and allows for the entire team to have an understanding of the goals and KPIs for a campaign.
2. Kick-off Calls. “These are super important, and for some reason get missed a lot,” Jack explains. “And they shouldn’t just involve the client but everyone you’re working with — publishers, designers, etc. This call is a natural jump-off point that helps put into motion what the next steps should be and makes the plan official.”
3. A Media Plan. “This is especially important between ops and media teams. It’s different than a planning brief because it has these individual pieces of information broken down more technically to ensure the campaign goes off more smoothly.”
And this includes campaign placements, which Emmanuel Ulloa, Digital Production Lead at Assemble can’t emphasize enough. “The way you build banners depends on where you’re going to publish them,” Emmanuel explains. “Every network, email provider — even the country the ad will run in — uses their own technologies, which will impact the build. You may know you’re using a network like Google, but there are countless sub-platforms within it that all require not just different specs, but also require the underlying code to totally change. Not to mention your design will be affected as well. Having a scroll bar to navigate an ad on a desktop may be great, but on mobile, it makes no sense. Creative teams sometimes forget to consider how these placements change the whole process.”
4. Creative Specs. This one is a no-brainer. But you have to stay ahead of the game with these. “When the client has a spec sheet with limits and options, production can go into development more confidently,” Emmanuel advises. “But you also have to know if your specs are outdated. Sometimes clients will pull from old templates or campaigns without realizing the required specs have been updated. We’re able to notice these differences on our side, but it does slow down the process.
“It’s also important to understand all of the necessary assets to include.” Seems obvious, but here’s what he means: “If your campaign is going through HTML, you also have to consider things like capacity changes, scale transformations, rotations, and lighting. In this case, creative teams need to provide developers with all frames — not just one video to be used for all sizes — because the size will alter the code behind it.”
“And this includes elements like background images as well,” Andres Moraga, Senior Front-End Developer at Assemble, adds. “A lot of media teams don’t know what this is. But it’s a huge part of the user experience. If a certain email provider doesn’t support the coding language or format, these images offer a backup plan so your customers don’t receive an error message, which is a sure way to get an unsubscribe.”
5. Campaign Timeline. “This is for everyone’s sanity,” Jack shares. “It should include all of the main milestones of the campaign — when things start, end, get handed off to another team, etc. With a guideline of each step that everyone can check and double-check, you can better safeguard yourself from missed deadlines.”
So with that being said, what are the most common mistakes you see agencies or marketers make that impact the success of their media strategy?
Oddly enough, despite how simple it may seem, a general lack of communication continues to be the biggest mistake for marketers. “Communication really is everything,” Jack confirms. “And that means not only that all the right information has to be passed along, but it has to come early enough too. The sooner you can share the full scope and details of a campaign, the more time you have to prepare and adjust or pivot to come up with a solution if an issue arises. And that means having a really strong process in place from the start. We’ve put a lot of emphasis on this at Exverus, giving everyone a voice on how to constantly make things better. And if you try to cheat the process by making a 6-day request with just 2-days to execute, you can’t expect the same quality or results. Giving everyone more time is not something people innately do, so you have to actively try to make it a habit.”
Andres agrees. “Finding out changes need to be made the day before a campaign goes live, or even worse, that it’s not running properly after it’s already launched really wastes a lot of time and money. We then have to hunt down the cause of the issue, whether it’s the platform, the size, etc. and usually the issues are more extensive than the client realizes. Having all the information early on makes it much easier for us to catch any potential issues and fix them before it becomes a bigger problem.”
Any other important things to consider when communicating between departments or teams in this process?
“Get everyone really involved,” Jack says. “It’s important to have conversations and relationships between different teams that aren’t purely technical. If it’s just here, this is exactly what you need to do, then your media and ad ops teams become glorified data specialists. Everyone has something of value to contribute, so include them in the conversation and welcome different perspectives. If you don’t, you could lose out on something big.”
What do you think the future of media will look like? And how can marketers best prepare for it?
“That’s the $100million question; everyone is trying to figure it out. But from a technical standpoint, there will only be increasing investment in technology as we continue to digitize everything. I mentioned SAAS and the speed at which it’s growing, so the way we are going to be able to do things that incorporate things like Cloud computing, AI, etc. will all culminate as we invest more into it.
“We’ll also see continued investment in big data; how we manage it, collect it, and understand it. Right now, there’s this big fight between tracking analytics and privacy, and where that’s going to end up, we’re all trying to figure out. So as marketers, we have to do what we’ve always done: be nimble and adapt. The advertising landscape changes so often and so fast, so if you’re not ready to pivot at a moment’s notice, you’re going to get left behind. You can’t assume whatever got you great results last time will get you the same results this time, so it’s all about moving and changing to try and stay ahead of the curve as much as possible.”