June 28, 2016

Transforming Your Programmatic Strategy: How to Hire Elite Yield Analysts 

Tim Sheets, Vice President, Monetization at OpenX

With programmatic advertising going mainstream and the walls between direct and indirect sales channels collapsing, the process of managing ad revenue has become a more complicated endeavor for digital media companies. As a result, the role of a yield management team has expanded, and with it, the responsibility to guide their organizations through a myriad of new technologies and plausible revenue increasing opportunities. While there is a ton of great information available for identifying these opportunities, the industry is lacking the practical advice for identifying the people to execute them.

So how can you build an elite yield management team? Hiring managers must move beyond the typical yield analyst job description that only emphasizes quantitative skills. To operate in a cross-functional leadership role as monetization experts, yield analysts must excel in the areas of creativity, communication and pragmatism – qualitative skills often overlooked in the hiring process. Without established certifications or programs to assert expertise in these traits, here are three questions hiring managers should ask to identify an exceptional yield analyst.


Creativity: When was the last time you improved an existing process?
With the modern demand stack comprised of hundreds of partners spread across several interconnected platforms, the leading yield-optimization strategies aren’t going to be found in an ops manual. Rather, best practices continually evolve through applying baseline knowledge in innovative ways – taking a creative approach to improve an existing yield-optimization strategy.

For example, in recent memory, the industry has moved from prioritizing demand partners at third-party reported CPMs, to discrepancy-adjusted CPMs, and finally to effective CPMs based on the value of the entire ad call with measures for latency. Taking this progression even further, a creative yield analyst would then overturn a previously accepted truth and recommend serving a demand partner that doesn’t generate the highest CPM for an individual impression, but instead one who contributes to generating maximum yield across the entirety of a publisher’s inventory. By assessing the relative certainty and predictability of each line item in an ad server, the yield team can determine when to employ such a strategy.

Pragmatism: What is header bidding and how should it be used to generate incremental revenue?
Although header bidding is one of hottest topics in late 2015, we can substitute it with the product or concept du jour in programmatic ad sales.  Effective yield analysts need to keep a pulse on industry trends, in turn, they must apply this knowledge to navigate through a growing list of options when making decisions about which products or technologies are worth making the investment when engineering resources are scarce and what is a waste of time.

The ability to fuse multiple sources of demand in a single unified auction proved the value of header bidding. However, as publishers consider “meta” solutions, at what point does redundancy, latency and the chances of something going wrong outweigh the benefits of adding yet another platform? Also, when is the right time to transition from a focus on the quantity of ad impressions to prioritizing viewability and a native experience for buyers? The yield team should be able to forecast the impact and provide recommendations.

Pragmatism is often an unsung virtue in hyper-quantitative roles. To succeed in the fast paced and highly fragmented digital advertising industry, yield analysts must move beyond ideas and theories to uncover practical applications.

Communication: Can you explain the relationship between site latency and total revenue?
When it comes to emerging selling options, there are gaps in baseline knowledge across functional groups, including sales, account management, product and engineering. While considering changes that will impact revenue, the yield team will need to explain concepts in a manner that drives understanding and consensus building. Look for a candidate’s ability to provide concrete examples and use analogies that add a sense of comfort to unfamiliar ideas or terminology.

For instance, driving along the freeways in central California during harvest season reveals caravans of open-top trucks transporting tomatoes across the state, errant tomatoes spilling along the way.  Voila…time, distance and millions of items makes for a fitting analogy for the inevitability of ad server discrepancies and the negative impact of introducing latency in the form of new or unproven partners.

With more than fifty percent of online ad spend expected to flow through programmatic platforms in 2016, there’s a big need for digital media companies to develop subject matter expertise in this area. By emphasizing creativity, pragmatism and communication when hiring for a yield management role, forward-looking companies can turn to their analysts to help develop a programmatic strategy that transforms the way digital ad inventory is sold.