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Pricing and Delivery Managers – The Unsung Heroes of the New Marketing Age

They are the people that price CPA deals.

A lot of them have fancy titles like “Director of Yield Management”, some have lowly titles like “Manager of Ad Operations”, but at, they were known simply as Delivery Managers.  Every ad network has them and they form the lifeblood of most yield optimizing organizations.

I suspect that, simply given the age of the organization, had the first delivery managers.  This is the story I was always told about how it was created:

When Gar Richlin joined the organization, many CPA deals were essentially being negotiated by the sales organization – a group that did not have the in-depth knowledge of the network required to understand what reasonable price points and volume correlations might look like.  This is critical in an ad network because a low CPA, while appealing initially to an advertiser, might turn out to drive limited volume because a low eCPM might prevent the campaign from getting widespread network distribution.  Working hard up front to negotiate a fair CPA would maximize the volume of conversions an advertiser receives, making happy advertisers and happy networks.  Gar created a ninja team of the best and brightest half-dozen or so people in the organization.  They were given ultimate power in accepting or turning down CPA campaigns from advertisers.  They tended to be senior people that had the respect of the sales organization, but they were not sales people.

This was a key inflection point in the organization.  Suddenly customers were given reasons to pay a higher CPA.  Delivery managers would come to sales people and say, “If customer X would increase their CPA by Y, we think we could generate Z more conversions for them per day.”  That moved the needle for customers.  As I said, many, many times at, “If a sales guy runs into his bosses office and says, ‘If we pay $11.00 instead of $12.00 per sale, we will get 200 more sales today’, I think the head of sales does that deal every time.  And the next day, if he runs in again and says, ‘Paying $13.00 instead of $12.00 will generate 200 more sales today.’, the head of sales does that too.  Right out to the absolute margin of profitability.”

Delivery managers are the people that take on the risk in the organization.  Their willingness to take responsibility for making a CPA campaign work makes or breaks the success of an organization. used to have a guy, Rich Morrissey, that was the absolute guru of pricing educational campaigns.  He had done so many of these deals and managed so many campaigns that he knew where we would get volume at different price points, what effect different creatives and landing pages would have on conversion rates, and what fair prices were.  He priced all these deals and we used to joke that if he were hit by a bus, it would cost us hundreds of millions of dollars.

The in-depth knowledge of how the network works is what allows these people to do their jobs.  What is a good frequency cap for campaign X?  What is a reasonable starting CPM to bid if we get paid on a CPA and how much can we spend before we have to stop or change it?

A delivery manager that knows the answers to these questions are worth their weight in gold.  On the one hand, they are developing such an esoteric, specialized skill set that they are virtually unqualified for other jobs.  They have a resume with one programming language on it: Ad Networkian.  On the other hand, the demand for these people is exploding: Inside agency trading desks, DSPs, Exchanges, Ad Networks, Publishers (up to and including Facebook), and many more all need these skill sets.  In a story that rocked Baltimore, Tribal Fusion opened an office in Baltimore just to hire delivery managers.

I am predicting now: If the people you have doing your delivery management are people that you treat like “Ad Traffickers”, they will find better homes that value them more appropriately in the near future.

What do you call your delivery managers?  How did that position come to exist in your organization?  Share your story now!

5 Responses to “Pricing and Delivery Managers – The Unsung Heroes of the New Marketing Age”

  1. Brad Terrell Says:

    I really like the historical context your post provides around this problem. I most frequently see the titles “Director or VP” of “Yield Management or Revenue Management”, and it is certainly a role that is becoming increasingly important as media firms become more analytically sophisticated in operating their businesses. As you might expect, I’ve seen a few people jumping into these roles from the airline and hospitality industries, which face similar issues in pricing seats and rooms, respectively, but aren’t experiencing the dramatic growth of the digital advertising sector.

    You might appreciate this presentation that AOL Advertising gave at ad:tech NY last year on some of the underlying analytical challenges involved in constructing the price/volume curves that enable yield managers to make informed decisions on the topic you describe:

  2. RIM Thinking Mobile Ad Network; Clearspring Data Gets WSJ WTK Spotlight; Intel Boosts M&A Says:

    […] Brent Halliburton shares a few anecdotes on the Cogmap blog about the importance of the pricing or delivery manager and that these 'ninja' are not simply ad traffickers. He writes, "Delivery managers are the people that take on the risk in the organization. Their willingness to take responsibility for making a CPA campaign work makes or breaks the success of an organization." Read more. […]

  3. brent Says:

    Understanding the bugs in our price volume curve generators was considered a core competence of the delivery organization at When I started in Product Management, the first thing I had to do was work for Mike Weaver (now running delivery at Millenial Media) for a month to learn how to not be dumb.

    Pretty sure Mike thought I was the dumbest guy ever allowed to walk into the delivery cubes.

    One more quick memory: I thought I knew Excel spreadsheets because I was a Wharton grad, etc. but I knew nothing. Weaver taught me a bunch of stuff, but Mike Richer (now running yield or something at Adconion) was an Excel machine. I think they all were. Hard to be a quant geek and not be geeked up on Excel.

  4. So true!! Says:

    One time I had a delivery manager estimate that we could deliver $500k over a month and I sold it through to the client. We ended up delivering $15k and fractured the relationship, which then I had to spend 6 months repairing. That was awesome. I learned a lot through that experience.

  5. Mike Weaver Says:

    Great write up, and you give yourself too little credit.

    The other huge benefit I see from the concept of Delivery or Yield Management or whatever fancy title you have for the group is that it is a great area to truely learn the business. You become intimately familiar with how things actually happen inside the company, both good and bad.

    Once you have this insight, the added value you bring to another area of the company (say Product Management, New Product Development, Sales Strategy, etc) is invaluable.

    For the last comment, that is the challenge of the position. What Delivery often does is project results on potential campaigns, often when they haven’t seen creative or reliable CTR / CVR estimates for, and overlay that on what they believe the ever changing network will look like for the duration of the campaign flight. There are too many variables to control and they will be incorrect from time to time.