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The "mini-MBA" for ad specialists

Posted by Anh Tu Phuc Hoang on May 19th, 2014 at 7:00 am

The daily tasks in ad operations is taxing, and can call for quick trouble-shooting that requires an intimate knowledge of technologies and advertising strategy all the while assuaging anxieties. Like many ad traffickers in interactive marketing, I was given hands-on training similar to process control training as seen in manufacturing. Many who happen into our line of work just want to take part in the digital industry but lack formal background in other disciplines, like web development, marketing, content creation and business.

In the past specialists in my position have opted for an MBA, but I am of the mindset that an ad trafficker ought to further develop their specialty seeing as how the organizational function of marketing is defining digital marketing as a distinct sub discipline. Other specialists in the company can get an MBA in Finance, Marketing or I.T., but not for ad traffickers. So how does one go about creating MBA-level credentials capitalizing on years of ad operations expertise to fill digital marketing roles for which expertise is deeply and widely lacking in some job markets?

I am opting for the ‘mini-MBA’ along with formal accreditation by major associations like the eMarketing Association and the Google Partners program usually achieved by corporate entities like service providers and ad agencies themselves. So it is an MBA-level accreditation based on years in ad operations, as oppose to years in finance, marketing or I.T.

A senior ad-trafficker have good instances to be the acting-supervisor in charge and have made ‘executive-decisions’ on their own; they would have had to act proactively and take the responsibility in altering plans to meet client needs in order to save a salesperson’s account, and in doing so contribute to improving internal work-flow with interdepartmental learnings. They would have filled gaps in roles and functionality on projects suited for someone with direct experience in tactical efficacy and familiarity with client objectives for brand associated campaigns.

So what happens after 10 or more years when you have achieved guru-status? At the time that this conundrum appeared on my career tract roughly a year ago the option was to work for an ad trafficking service provider where my specialized expertise seemed most valued. Businesses that require ad trafficking functions are not centred around our roles, they are either media outlets that produce content or advertising agencies that produce the ads. So it seemed then that to benefit from my years of experience I would have to work for a pure-play ad trafficking contractor, and lately for those new-fangled RTB ad-exchanges. I want more from my own years of participation and collaboration on email, mobile, search and display campaigns: that is to capitalize professionally on the many times I have been right in recommending tactics and strategies.

A mini-MBA is not the realized ‘masters degree’ that is an MBA. Rather it is continuing professional development; what was once offered in-house for rising corporate achievers who needed to understand MBA-think and MBA-speak to move up in their company is now offered outside workplaces at respected business schools as an independent certificate program. It costs roughly $9,000 to complete the course in as little as a month, depending on how your classroom hours are structured: 2 classroom sessions each week for a month or 3 classrooms each month over three months -- it is based on convenience for the adult student. And such programs are called ‘MBA Essentials for Managers’ (not to be confused with an actual MBA) though certain schools will say it mirrors a full MBA in a quickie format -- on par with a trade school diploma. So a trade-school MBA.

In addition to that ‘trade-school MBA’ I am also formalizing my years of hands-on experience by taking the exams for accreditation by the eMarketing Association (eMA) in advance email, mobile, search and display advertising. The eMA is “the largest association of marketers in the world” and I am sure every traditional marketing-head has gone through their accreditation program since the rise of digital marketing. And as digital becomes a part of the consumer buying process we are seeing the need for a dedicated digital-marketing-head under the organizational branch of marketing. The eMA requires a membership fee to join and discounts are often given to those who join their group on LinkedIn -- with the annual fee, you get to take the fundamentals course for free and the advance courses at a members discount.

And to shore up my professional advantage I am also opting to achieve the Google Partners for Individuals accreditation. Google Partners is a program formally recognizing the expertise of service providers like ad agencies and search-marketing companies who manage the digital planning and execution of digital advertising for major household brands.  Google itself recommends that companies desiring to advertising across Google, Youtube and websites that display advertising campaigns whose accounts are managed with Google seek out a recognized partner in their city.  The Google Partners for Individuals has recently become free to take the exams when before it cost $50 per attempt. And similar to the eMA exams, there is a basic fundamentals exam followed by advance exams for search, display and mobile. Once accredited under this program you can be listed as a prefered individual service provider in your city and there are few. In Toronto, Ontario, where I live, there are less than 10 accredited Google Partners in a metropolitan area of 3 million people.

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