People of Color Trying to Break Into Ad Biz: Consider Ad Ops

Let’s be honest – the advertising industry isn’t very diverse. For example, less than 6% of the workforce is African American, according to figures tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The lack of representation among brands, agencies and vendors alike is seriously troubling. It may even be why some tone-deaf campaigns find their way to market. 

The good news is, there are a lot of conversations taking place to create a more inclusive industry, and there are serious opportunities for people of color. The digital marketing industry in particular is a great place to build a career, and many of us initially gravitated to mentorships that support new or rising employees while adding diversity to a company’s ranks.

It’s natural for anyone interested in a mentored position to be drawn to shiny and desirable departments like marketing, product or sales. Those areas sound glamorous, but they may not actually be the best entry point for someone looking to be a senior leader, or who has entrepreneurial aspirations.



From my experience, it’s knowing the guts of this industry that can help young people realize their ambitions. That’s why there’s an enormous hidden value to pursuing a spot in a less glamorous department that teaches the inner workings of advertising or marketing technology.

I’m talking about advertising operations. Ad ops is one of the most important departments in nearly any digital content or advertising company. For anyone entering the space, it’s where you learn the nitty-gritty of campaign implementation, yield management, and the economics of advertising. It will teach how marketing, advertising, and data platforms work together and are differentiated.

Ad ops is also a great place to work in a cross-functional capacity to learn how products are built, how sales executes and how to grow partnerships with technology vendors. It’s the beating heart of the advertising and marketing technology industry.

For young professionals, taking on the decidedly unsexy tasks of managing campaigns, learning the different yield tricks, understanding the nuances of campaign performance will be invaluable to furthering career goals. They will also learn how to build  professional relationships by working cross-functionally with people of varying responsibilities, skills and personalities.

More than others, young people of color need a breadth of knowledge and skills to make up for an assortment of structural disadvantages and unconscious bias in the hiring process. One solution is to train themselves in the inner workings of their industry of choice — in this case, advertising and marketing technology.

There are lots of positions like ad ops that sit at the center of everything and can open career doors that aren’t immediately obvious. Being armed with 360-degree knowledge of the industry, instead of chasing some of the shinier jobs, is a strong step to controlling our own destiny.

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