Ad Ops All Stars: Mark Verone

by Kathleen Booth, on Jun 2, 2021 9:00:00 AM

Mark VeroneWhen it comes to advertising operations, Mark Verone has "been there, done that" across a range of industry leading brands including Gogo, Orbitz and iHeartMedia.

Today, he's a sought after marketing operations and technology advisor on topics relating to streaming entertainment and media apps, marketing vendor management, and performance marketing, just to name a few.

Mark's work supported expansive growth from $235M to $835M over tenure with Gogo, from $685M to $765M at Orbitz, and from $1.5B to $8.9B at Clear Channel (iHeart).

In this episode, Mark shares lessons learned throughout his career, including the traits he looks for in new hires, why he uses agile to manage his teams, and what he's learned about being an effective leader.

Listen to or watch the full episode, or read the transcript below, to hear more about Mark's journey as an Ad Ops leader.

Resources from this episode:

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Kathleen: Welcome back to the Ad Ops All Stars podcast. I'm your host, Kathleen Booth and today my guest is Mark Verone. Welcome to the podcast, Mark.

Mark: Great to be here. Thank you for having me.

Kathleen: I'm excited to chat with you. You have such an impressive background. You, you have, I feel like you've kind of done it all because you've been a marketing leader. You've been an ad ops leader. You know, you've worked for some big brands, including Gogo, Orbitz and iHeartMedia. Now you're taking all of that knowledge you've built up and you're working as a consultant and coming in and helping these companies from the outside. I love that you bring a variety of perspectives to this conversation, and I cannot wait to talk to you about your career. But first I have a question for you. Ad ops is, I feel, like nobody ever grows up wanting to go into ad ops, right? It's not one of those things. You're like, I'll be a ballerina or a princess or an ad ops leader. So my question is how would you explain if you were talking to a five-year-old what ad ops is?

Mark: Wow. Cause my kids sort of understand it a little bit, but you know, I think if I was talking to a five-year-old, I think I'd explain it in the way that they would, you know, recognize and understand that if they were using a free service and, and they didn't have to pay for that service, and it was supported with advertising that there are people behind the scenes that, that allow that transaction to occur so that companies can, can make those those sponsors or those advertisers support the product that they enjoy using. And, and I think when you explain it in those terms, it's like, well, wait, I don't have to pay for something and it's supported by ads. But I think really the business of ad operations for me is something I fell into. And, and it was, it was something that I had not dreamt of, of, you know, like, you know, when I was going to college, I was more focused on being, you know, in the entertainment industry and being in radio and, and working in media. I wasn't thinking about the business of advertising and what it takes to execute an ad campaign down to the minute detail.

Kathleen: Yeah. I think that's probably true of most people who are in ad ops leadership positions. It does. It definitely seems to be one of those careers that people, I don't want to say fall into, because that makes it sound accidental. But, but very few people graduate from college and think this is what I'm setting out to do, which is interesting.

Mark: There's no major, right? Like, it's not like when you, when you check the box in, you know, in a, in a marketing, if you're learning marketing or advertising in college, there's, there's no box that says ad ops marketing technology and, you know but I think, I think it's, it's one of those areas that I fell in love with once I started peeling back the layers and understanding what the business meant.

Kathleen: So what is it that you love about it? Why are you, what, what gets you excited to get out of bed and go to work everyday in ad ops?

Mark: Every day is different. No two days are the same. And you know, I, I like to, I like to think that ad ops is on the front line of ensuring that, you know, revenue is getting recognized if you're on the publisher side or on the agency side, you know, the ad ops teams on an agency side are ensuring that their client campaigns are being executed. So buy side, sell side doesn't matter. And I think that really, the exciting part is you don't know what every day is going to bring. You know, you can, you can forecast inventory, you know, as accurately as you think it's going to be, but you don't know what event is going to occur. That's going to change that dramatically, a global pandemic you know, a big news event anything can change how people come and view your site and, and, you know, and then there's a lot of variables and unknowns that are sometimes outside of your control. You know, when you're talking about third-party advertising and tracking and discrepancies. And so there's a, there's a lot of investigative work that goes into, you know, being in the ad ops community and, and being in the ad ops world.

Kathleen: Yeah. Now you kind of touched on this a little bit in what you already said, but I want to call it out more specifically, which is, from your perspective, where does ad ops fit within a company's overall business strategy? Like what is the strategic importance of an ad ops team?

Mark: So I think, again, it depends on, you know, buy-side or sell-side because I, I kind of, I, I don't, I don't want to forget that, you know, that there's a sell side to this business too. I think a lot of times you hear about ad ops from the publisher perspective, people that are selling advertising, but there's a lot of ad buying that's going on. And there are a lot of operational teams that do that execution. So, you know, I've been always closely aligned to sales or marketing teams, right? So in the business of demand generation or growth, or in the, in the business of partner marketing or selling advertising. So I think with the exception of, of Clear Channel slash iHeart, I've worked for a lot of non traditional publishers and the, these are the publishers that advertising is not their core, you know, primary source of revenue.

Mark: It's sometimes secondary to the primary revenue stream. So at Orbitz, our core business was selling travel as an online travel agency. At Gogo, our core business was selling internet connectivity and entertainment on airplanes. So I, I think, you know, lately as I've been freelancing, I've been seeing, you know, ad ops teams reporting into chief revenue officer organizations. But you know, it's an important piece of the whole revenue operations machine, right? You can go out and sell ads, but if you don't have a team that can execute and work closely with the client and the agencies to make sure that that campaign starts on time, you're at a disadvantage. So I think, you know, it varies by organization, but I, I, I liked being aligned with the people that are out there on the streets, whether it's programmatic or it's direct, it doesn't matter, you know, it's, it's, it's the teams that are, are held responsible for generating revenue. Yeah.

Kathleen: And you mentioned a couple of the places that you've worked. Can you rewind the clock a little bit and talk about what your career progression was and how did you wind up in ad ops?

Mark: Oh, it's a fun story. So you know, it's, it's you know, I looked at you know, why, or how I got into this world and, you know, I, I, I, it was, it was not necessarily accidental, but, you know, I, I was part of Clear Channel before it turned into iHeart, and this was back in 99. So at that time it was, it was called J Corps. And it then morphed into Clear Channel. And I was really a part of the interactive team that was focused on the revenue generation of trying to figure out how we monetize these 1200 radio stations that we, we owned. And I was handed a bunch of contracts that we had and said, okay, we've got a bunch of contracted revenue and we've got this thing called an ad server. And, and it's, it's ad traffic now in broadcast.

Mark: The term ad traffic is, is, is a term that isn't glamorous, right? It's usually someone in the accounting department that at the time, you know, 20 plus years ago would walk into the studio and deal with the station logs and put the, you know, the carts in the, in the video tapes or whatever. It was a broadcast station into the machine or through the rotation. And then, you know, on the newspaper side, you had people that, that kind of did some of those, those roles as well, in terms of, you know figuring out how ads should be slotted into a newspaper or magazine, but in, in the radio world, it was something when someone said ad traffic, I looked at them like they had two heads because it wasn't something that I thought was interesting. But once I started getting involved with the software and learning about how the system worked and the overall impact, it was, it was right up my alley.

Mark: I'm, I'm operationally wired. So the order of things matters to me, right? Like there's a, you know, there's an insertion order, there's instructions, there's a start and end date. There's, you know, very specific targeting. And so for me, it was like, Oh, this is this, this makes sense. And so organizing that early on, I was using NetGravity. I'm dating myself, but NetGravity became DART Enterprise was, was bought by. It was one of the early ad servers that was bought by DoubleClick and now was probably legacy code is somewhere in Google Ad Manager. But realistically, you know, I, I think that, you know, learning about those tools early on, they were simple. The targeting was simple, the campaign execution was simple. It's gotten complex a lot more complex and a lot more challenging. So I think the skillset, you know, I think I'm grateful that I got involved at that time because, you know, there's a much higher learning curve today.

Kathleen: That's a really great point. So talk to me a little bit about, you know, you you've run different ad ops teams. Actually. That's a great question. How, what's been the largest team that you've run?

Mark: The largest team I ran was at Orbitz. And I had, I had both kind of the pre-sales side of the house that worked with, with the the sales team for, you know, inventory forecasting and sales planning all the way through account management. So we would sell the deals, but then we had a team of account managers that ensure they would run and, or optimize them. So now we got to add that opposite in between. So it was a global team. So I had, you know, I had teams both in the domestic US, but also in Europe, Australia. It, it was fun. It was, you know, it was, it was one of those situations where similar to, to Clear Channel. And I heard where a bunch of companies came together and had different technologies. So, you know, Orbitz had one ad server and Clear Channel had, you know, sorry, Cheap Tickets had another one.

Mark: Lead Bookers had a different one. So one of the first things we did was consolidate the technology onto one platform. And I think that that was, was critical for us having a single view into the business and being able to forecast and sell it in a way that that made sense. So, so really we had to really rethink our technology stack and how we operated. And so the teams, you know, we're, we're, we're set up in a way, and part of my style is to ensure that they are able to cross train and do each other's jobs, and they understand how everything works. It turned out the salespeople were crazy because they got used to calling on the same person, but now every six months or every quarter, we would change it up a little bit just to offer that flexibility, because you want to make sure that people don't get burnt out in this business. And you also want to make sure that people are exposed to different areas so that they don't have you know, they, they, they don't get to a point where they can't call it vacation cause they're the only person that knows how that thing works.

Kathleen: Yeah. Burnout has definitely been a recurring theme in our interviews for this podcast. So I have a bunch of questions following up on what you just said. The first is ballpark that sounds like at Orbitz it was a really large organization of in terms of ad ops, your ad ops team. Ballpark, how, how many people were in that team?

Mark: So there was, there was about 30 people total.

Kathleen: Wow. Okay.

Kathleen: That's pretty large. So, you know, and you had mentioned earlier that the skill set has evolved over time with the technology, right? So if you were building an ad ops team today, what kinds of skill sets would you be looking for in candidates?

Mark: It depends, you know? I like bringing people in that have never done ad ops before. That's always a fun candidate, but the type of person I'm looking for is someone that's detail oriented. Someone that has the operational thinking. Someone that's very organized and and someone that that is customer focused and customer service friendly. You know, people that have worked at a help desk or in a call center or have worked you know, helping or even even different operations or have a lot of customer exposure are important. I think sometimes you get this finger pointing thing that happens with ad ops. It's like, it's easy to throw sales under the bus or blame you know, product or whoever. I don't like that. It's, you know, culturally, it's not something I encourage because, you know, I I'm, I'm not a salesperson, but I've sold before.

Mark: And I, and I did it as part of my career and I have a lot of respect for what sales teams have to put up with and what they have to deal with in terms of meeting client expectations. It's, it's, it's a, it's a demanding job. There's a lot of pressure, you know, for performance and, and hitting numbers. So I think that, you know, I, I'm very cognizant of all the different parts that are involved and I want a team that is going to work cohesively with all of those groups. So, so I think that when I, when I built sales, sales, operations, and, and ad operations teams, I'm looking for people that, that are, you know, curious. I mean, I think that there's a natural curiosity that comes into play here. And I, I, I don't want to put a label on, on, on the types of individuals in ad ops, but we are very curious.

Mark: We are very inquisitive. You know, I, I love the TV show on science channel called How It's Made. And I love that because I want to, I'm the type of person that likes to know how things work. And so it, and so as I'm interviewing people, I like to know, do they have that natural curiosity and how things work and how things are put together, because you can train them to do just about anything. Now, obviously for certain roles you have to hire for experience and you have to have certain skill sets. And I think today's ad operations teams are a lot more technical. They, they know more about code than maybe, you know, was necessary in the past. They don't necessarily have to be coders, but they have to be able to interpret and, you know, be able to look at the code and see what's going on, or be able to have an intelligent conversation with the technical team to understand how these things all work together.

Kathleen: So that's a really interesting combination of things that you'd be screening for because there's the, the experience, there's the technical prowess either with different platforms or with understanding code. And then there's the, what I would call the soft skills, the curiosity, the attention to detail, the organization, et cetera. Any, do you have any particular tricks in terms of how you like to structure a hiring process to screen for particularly the soft skills? Because I feel like the other stuff you can kind of figure out from a resume and, but things like curiosity and attention to detail and organization and great communication skills, it's a little bit harder. So I'm wondering how you've, if you've found ways to successfully identify that in candidates in the past.

Mark: Yeah. I think part of it is the types of questions you ask, and I'm a big believer in behavioral interviewing and behavioral questions. And I think the way you structure them should, should align to your style and to, into, to what the company's goals are. But, you know, I like to ask them questions about, tell me a time that, you know, I don't, I don't want to care, I don't care about your strengths and weaknesses. That's, that's an easy question, but tell me about a time.

Kathleen: Everybody's weakness is, magically, a strength in disguise. Have you noticed that?

Mark: Yeah. I want to know it, you know, tell me about a time that you were successful and why. You know, what, what was it about what made that project or that thing that you did successful? What were the reasons? Or tell me about a time that, that something went wrong or, or you failed and what did you learn from it? I'm more curious about what did you learn from it. I'm a big believer in continuous improvement. You know, I I'm, I've often long been you know, an agilest in how I approach things. I think agile marketing is, is a, is a great approach for a lot of marketing organizations to help, you know, get their, their thought process or process organized. But then even with, within the ad operations world, this idea of operating in a scrumban world, which is, you know, kind of a mixture of scrum and Kanban, works because everything is very transactional, right? There's, there's very clear goalpost, right? It's not nebulous in terms of when, when something starts, starts and ends. So I think that I'm, I want to know if, if people can introspectively recognize, yeah I made a mistake and here's what happened and here's what I did to correct it. Here's how I fixed it. That to me tells a lot about someone, you know, I've had people walk into my office and that, well I've never made a mistake. I'm like, okay?

Kathleen: Oh, that's sociopathic.

New Speaker: Right, I guess you can't work here.

Mark: Because we're all human. So I think, I think, you know, I I'm really focused on the learning. And, and how did, how did you course correct to improve on the next, you know, cycle or the next ground?

Kathleen: Yeah, I feel like you and I could have a whole separate podcast interview on agile because I have a the book Scrum on my bookshelf here behind me and I'm I too am a fan. Although it's definitely, I would say in marketing, you don't often practice pure agile. It's harder to do, but but it's a great framework.

Mark: Yeah. And that's, and, and, you know, and it's true. Like the, you know, the that's the way sometimes I think marketing teams and technical teams don't always align. You know, I, I, I sometimes joke that I'm like the C3PO in the middle of, you know, I've gotten the universal communicator because I have to speak sales, I have to speak, I have to speak, you know, operations, I have to speak, you know, engineering and code. And so I think the key there is, you know, marketers operate differently than, you know, technology folks and the sprint process doesn't always apply to the marketing role. Right? Like, the two week sprint might not necessarily work in the campaign goal.

Kathleen: Oh yeah. There's so much crazy stuff that crops up in between those two weeks.

Mark: Well, there, there, there has to be some like flexibility, and I think that's where this concept of scrumban is one that, that is, it's easy to learn because it's transactional in nature, but it's, it's a combination of the two.

Kathleen: Yeah. I like that. So this really leads me into my next question, which is when you run an ad ops team, how do you measure success for your team? And like, how are you goaling the team?

Mark: You know, I, I could sit here and, and, you know, talk about all the KPIs and metrics you know, and the impacts of, you know, starting a campaign, you know, on schedule. Late creatives. And, you know, I mean, there's a variety of different things that you can track and measure. But really it comes down to how do we manage expectations, you know, against the forecast and inventory. But I think a lot of it's more of a campaign optimization and delivery exercise. It's a customer service exercise and keeping a client happy. But you know, all those things, you know, those are all table-stakes things. So those are things that, that you have to do as part of the job. I think what really matters more than anything is, is what happens is, I alluded to before, what happens when we make a mistake or we screw up? What did we learn?

Mark: You know, how are we going to, how are we going to solve the current problem and how are we going to make improvements? And, and for me, success is when a team recognizes the value of continuous improvement and operational excellence, and gets to a point where they're not hiding mistakes, but they're, they're surfacing them and they're not covering things up. Or, you know, culturally, I got to a point where people could walk into my office and say, all right, we screwed this up. Here's our proposed plan, or we've already implemented this. What do you think? And, and I think as a leader, I look at myself, that you know, half the time I'm coach and half the time I'm, you know, tiebreaker, right. So if someone's coming in and they want a confirmation on, Hey, is this the right approach or not? That's where, that's where my role comes in. That's where I should be, you know sitting there and saying, yeah, and weighing out all of the different options and having a creative open space where we can have a conversation. You know, obviously if someone's making chronic mistakes and the same mistakes over and over again, we're going to have a conversation. But, you know, I, I think what I, what I'm more concerned about is, is did people learn something? And, and that to me is one of the biggest measures of success.

Kathleen: Yeah. I don't I don't know if you're familiar with the author Adam Grant. He, he has a book that he wrote called Give and Take, which was how I first discovered him. And it's amazing. But he has a new book out called Think Again, and it's all about it's all about like continuous learning and challenging your own beliefs., But he spends a lot of time in the book talking about how the notion of psychological safety is so important for people to be able to grow and continue to learn. And it's exactly what you just talked about, which is if you don't have psychological safety people, won't admit that they're wrong. You know, they'll be afraid. They'll try to take credit for other's work. It creates like this toxic environment. And so such a great book to check out if that's something you're passionate about.

Mark: Yeah I will check that out.

Kathleen: Really good. I love that. So, so you talked about burnout and I feel like that's the other side of the equation, right? I mean, I've, I've heard so many different ad-ops people talk about that, you know, the crazy Friday night phenomenon when everyone else has gone home and, you know, you're getting requests kind of late in the day and creative is starting to show up as, as you were getting ready to head home, et cetera. How do you prevent burnout and manage stress on, on a team that's under deadline all the time and kind of at the mercy of other teams and, and outside clients?

Mark: You've gotta have a sense of humor. You know, you have, and you have to have a creative place where people can you know, where, where, where people don't necessarily have to create that adversarial relationship internally, but where they feel like they can come in and close the door and just, and just vent. Right? And I think that, you know, part of what we did is, is we've always tried to structure it where people can learn different things and learn, learn someone else's role or take on different accounts. And we try to change it up a little bit. So this cross training concept is, is good from a practical perspective, but you gotta have fun. You gotta, you know, you gotta be flexible in terms of people's schedules. I know, you know, COVID and the pandemic has made it a lot easier for people to, to be a lot more flexible with their teams.

Mark: But, you know, I often would not prescribe to the number of days off that, you know, the company had, we would often, you know, have our own kind of, you know, internal way of dealing with it, because I know the stresses of asking someone to come in, you know, on Super Bowl weekend or, you know, during the holidays. I mean, there's a lot of people on my team that worked, you know, every New Year's. And so we would, we would, we would have to, you know, make exceptions for, you know, and change that up. And, and me as a leader would have to jump in and roll up my sleeves too. Right. You know, you can't just expect the team to do everything all the time. You, as a leader have to recognize, Hey, you've got to jump in and help out your team.

Mark: In a lot of ways you know, as a working manager, as a working leader, I think the big thing is, is, is getting the team together and just talking regularly, having those conversations regular one-on-one meetings you know, touch points, you know, checking in with people weekly team meetings, you know, at Gogo, they used to call my office the clown car because we would pack my entire team. And the team was growing to a point where we actually needed a conference room, but we would pack the whole team in the office for our weekly meeting. And I had glass windows and people would walk by and they literally were just scratching their heads like, why are, why do, why are you guys packed in your office every week? Why don't you go into a conference room? And I'm like, I've suggested it, but they like packing themselves into the office.

Mark: And of course, now we probably can't do that, but pre COVID you could. And, and it was, it was this togetherness thing. It was this, you know, it was this, this, this ability to, to just, you know, give everyone an update, but also, you know, share their challenges and, and, and be able to vent and have that kind of open, safe place that you talked about with kind of the psychological safety piece. You know, we did get to a point where the team grew, where we had to, we had to get a conference room and it changed, it changed the dynamic a little bit, but, you know, we still maintained that close knit group so much so that people, other teams were like, you know, they can figure out what we were doing. Why is this team so close and why are they so happy and why are they so functional?

Mark: And it's because we actually enjoyed working together, you know. And part of that was just, you know, part of that is, you know, this is a leadership style that doesn't like, put people against each other, or it doesn't have this dictator, you know, mentality to how things should be done. And I've seen other teams where, you know, they've not even talked to their manager in months or quarters, or they only talked to them, you know, when they have to do their OKRs every quarter, or they have a once a year, annual or mid-year review. And that was not something that we did. We had regular, open communication. So I think these are all like tools to kind of avoid burnout, but it's inevitable. I mean, you can't, you can't you can't fix that problem. It's, it's, it's a, it's a very real problem. And I think that, you know, it's a constant struggle and I think, I think you just have to spend the time with your team to really understand what works best for them.

Kathleen: So you talked about burnout. What are some of the other biggest challenges that you personally faced as an ad ops team lead on the job? And how did you overcome them?

Mark: Constant change. You know, I think that you know, but that's also what makes the job fun and exciting too. I think every day is different and it's exciting in different ways. You know, I think sometimes ad ops can feel like you're running in a hamster wheel that you either get dizzy and fall off, or you just keep going, because some hamsters really love that. But you know, and I think constant change can be annoying for some, especially people that are adverse to change. So if you don't like change, you shouldn't work in ad ops because you, if you can't cope with change. But I also see it as an opportunity to solve problems. And, you know, I think that constant change is also an indicator that, Hey, maybe we need to fix something over here cause we're, we're constantly doing the same thing over and over again. Is there an oppor, you know, is there an opportunity for us to automate that or change the way we do something or make improvements?

Kathleen: And, and looking back on your career, is there somebody who has had a really big impact on it and how did they, how did they influence you?

Mark: This is a really hard question. I, I, you know, and I, and I look at this question and I've had this question asked and asked a lot of me. I I've had some really amazing leaders in my career who I've learned a ton from but I've also had a lot of bad leaders. And I think the bad leaders, they'll all remain nameless, have actually had the biggest impact on teaching me the wrong way to be a leader. And, and how not to treat people. And I think early in my career that became a useful tool. It was, it was like, Oh, just do the opposite of what the bad leader does and you'll do great. But later in life, I kind of realized that you know, it's really important to take advantage of mentorship opportunities, whether it's you being mentored and taking advice from someone else or mentoring others.

Mark: And you know, I look at 22 years ago, I left the local radio business and I was a marketing director in charge of, you know, seven local radio stations. And thanks to, you know, two people in particular, Nick Miller and John Martin, you know, I was, I had the opportunity to move to Chicago and I, you know, I did get a crash course in digital advertising and, you know, working across this portfolio of radio stations. But, you know, I was literally handed the keys to this thing called ad traffic, ad ops, ad server. And, you know, it's, it's, it's those leaders that, that actually instill the confidence in me to really push me out of my comfort zone and push me out of the nest and, and, and, and introduced me to a whole new set of skills. And I'm forever grateful for that because I've been able to use that to, to expand my knowledge to systems and technologies that I never thought I would ever be exposed to in my career.

Kathleen: Nice. So if you could turn back the clock what advice would you give to your younger self when you were just starting out?

Mark: I should've bought a whole bunch of stock in ad tech companies. No, but seriously, I, I, I think I was living here in the Midwest. I was insulated from the, the, the West coast gold rush of, you know, ad tech and technology companies. And I worked for a traditional media company. So, you know, our goal is to make money selling, advertising. You know, digital was an add on. But it was harder to learn about ad tech, I think, sitting here in the Midwest you know, in the early two thousands. And I wish I would have spent more time finding other people that did what I was doing with ad traffic, as it was known, you know, back then. You know, I was a little bit late to the AdMonsters party. And I eventually found my tribe, you know. I found my network of ad tech geeks but I wish I found them sooner.

Mark: And, you know, I think today there's so many opportunities to stay connected with the industry. And, and I think that also you burn out too, because if you can get involved with a cohort of people that do what you do, it's amazing because you can share ideas, but you could also talk about the challenges and ways to deal with that. And I, and the other aspect too, is there's so many, like opportunities for learning and sort of, you know, certification programs through IAB and others that, and none of that existed when I got involved in the business. So, so I think, you know, I had to seek that out early on, and I wish that that was around, you know, like it is today.

Kathleen: Yeah. So interesting. I could talk to you forever. We're gonna run out of time though so I'm going to shift gears and there are two questions we'd like to ask all of our guests and I'd love to get your perspective on them. The first one is now, now more than ever, the ad ops world is, is always evolving. You said change is constant. That's, you know, the one thing. But now more than ever, I think in response to regulatory changes, things like privacy and cookies, and there's platform updates, there's there's industry consolidation happening. There's so much going on right now in the world of ad ops. How do you stay on top of all of that and keep yourself educated? Like, are there particular blogs or podcasts or newsletters or conferences? You mentioned AdMonsters is one. Are there other sources you go to, to stay on top of it all?

Mark: Yeah, there is. And, and it's hard. I mean, I read a lot, I network a lot, you know, I stay on top of all the, the industry trade publications. You know, I, I, one of the things about the pandemic and then kind of being out of work and shifting into this, this this, this role as a, as a consultant and freelancer, is I got the opportunity to attend a lot of free events that occurred over the last six months. And, you know, I was going to everything from Adobe, you know, have had free events. Ad Ad Adweek and Ad Age, and every everyone was doing something. And, and so there was a lot of opportunity to stay on top of what's going on. I think, you know, it's, it's very easy to get out of touch with this world.

Mark: You know, I think everything changes dramatically every quarter. And, and, and so I think what I try to do is, is, is, is really check out those blogs. I really like what Scott Brinker is doing with the Chief MarTech, Chief Marketing Technology blog. He's got a lot of really great information there. So, you know, I, I stay in touch with the AdMonsters crew. I also I'm really close with, with Beeler.Tech in terms of another, you know, just another resource and really just, you know, going into my network. You know, if I don't understand something, I go and talk to the, the, the friends and colleagues I've met, you know, in the last 20 years and I asked their opinions and sometimes they're like, what's that? We go on this discovery to learn about it together, or, you know, or they're actually implementing something or they're doing something with GDPR or CCPA that, that maybe I've never heard of. So, so I think it's really good for the community. You know, you learn a lot from the community. And I think that that's the key is, and it doesn't matter what you do, whether it's ad ops or something else, having a tribe, having a community of people that do what you do is so critical.

Kathleen: Oh, I couldn't second that any more. I feel the same way about my career as a marketer. You know, my community is so important to me. Well, speaking of your community and your peers, is there another ad ops team leader that you think is really doing outstanding work and should be our next guest on this podcast?

Mark: Wow. Now look. I mean, ad tech is everywhere. I mean, it's, it's it's not just a digital media focus. I mean, ad tech is driving innovation everywhere from, you know, audio, digital, out of home to gas pumps. You know, you know, all kinds of places you can hide it. Here in Chicago, there's a company called Cooler Screens. And I don't know if you've heard of them, but they are innovating the refrigerator and freezer doors in grocery stores and convenience stores. You know, they're, they're turning them into these interactive digital displays that are featuring the products inside of, the inside of the cooler. So like this thing that just used to be the clear glass thing is now, like it's got a whole ad tech component to it. It's telling you what products are available. If something's out of stock, it'll tell you.

Mark: And then, and then it has the ability as you're walking down the aisle to, you know, to throw up a full screen, you know, video, you know, wall of different products and different things. So, so that to me is fascinating, but, you know, my career has kind of morphed a little bit from, you know, strictly focused on ad ops and tech into this marketing technology, marketing operations, you know, arena or MarTech landscape. But, you know, ad tech is, is almost parallel or in conjunction with MarTech. And I mentioned Scott Brinker and, you know, I I'm continually impressed by Scott. He's an industry colleague. I met him a few years ago when I, when I spoke at one of his events that he was hosting. And you know, his day job is, is actually kind of cool. He runs the platform ecosystem for HubSpot. So he's deep in the middle of marketing tech. But you know, and HubSpot's a cool company. I actually leveraged HubSpot for my job search prospects., You know, I, I, I'm using a CRM, you know, as I was looking for a job,

Kathleen: Fun fact, I spent 11 years as the owner of a HubSpot partner agency. There you go. I love that company.

Mark: So, you know, so I think that, you know you know, I mean Ad Age called Scott the godfather of MarTech, but, you know, he's, he's someone I like to follow and stay on top of, in terms of, you know, what's going on. You know, the overall marketing technology means, I mean, he's tracking 8,000 different companies and solutions that are out there. I mean, the industry is ripe for consolidation, but there is a solution for just about anything or any problem you're trying to solve.

Kathleen: So true it's and how that man has the time to spend figuring all that out and staying on top of it is beyond me. So kudos to him for hacking that so that the rest of us don't have to.

Mark: Oh, that's the name of his book too. It's Hacking Marketing.

Kathleen: Well, there you go. Oh, well, thank you so much, Mark. This has been a ton of fun. You know, thank you for joining me for this episode. And of course, for folks who are listening, if you enjoyed this episode, please consider leaving a review on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. And to hear more interviews with leading ad-ops experts, head to And while you're there, check out our resource center to learn more about protecting your user experience and your revenue. That is it for this week. Thank you so much, Mark.

Mark: Thank you. I really, it was a lot of fun and I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you today.

Kathleen: I had a blast. Thanks for being here.

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