In this interview series, InterNations team members discuss their role and responsibilities. Here, our Ad Operations Manager and self-described “digital age enthusiast with a thing for advertising” Elvin talks about his career in online advertising.
Can you briefly introduce yourself?
My name’s Elvin, I’m the Ad Operations Manager at InterNations. I moved to Munich from Albania, my home country, for this job, and I’ve been working here for about a year.
How would you summarize your role as Ad Operations Manager?
I curate all advertisements we put on our platform on behalf of our corporate partners. As part of our Corporate Partnerships Team, I put the ads “out there”, so to speak. If you’ve signed up on InterNations, used our app, or just browsed our website, you’ll probably have come across one of our ad formats.
For example, you could have received a promotional e-mail from our partners. E-mail marketing ― aka “EDMs” or “electronic direct mail” – remains one of our most effective advertising tools. Or you may have seen display advertising, such as start page banners or a sponsored calendar ad in our Events section.
And which adjectives describe your job best?
Technical, data-driven, and analytical.
You need technical skills to use the different software tools and implement the ad campaigns. And you need to keep an eye on how various campaigns running in different parts of the world are performing. Our team is also responsible for reporting back to our advertising partners. How many people have opened a specific EDM? How many have clicked on a particular advertising banner?
We usually try to include suggestions on what could be improved, especially if a campaign doesn’t perform as well as expected. Was there perhaps an issue with the target audience? Could it be due to the images and advertising copy? There are lots of angles to analyze, and it’s an ongoing process to connect the right dots.
When I asked for this interview, you joked that nobody would be interested in your job because everyone dislikes ads anyway. Can you elaborate on that a little?
Well, most people tend to find at least some ads annoying or intrusive. With digital advertising in particular, they’re often worried about privacy and data protection, too. This is something anyone working in the advertising industry is aware of. It’s actually part of our job in the Corporate Partnerships Team to take these concerns seriously.
We do want the ads on InterNations to be relevant for our members. Whenever we get approached by a potential advertising partner, we check two criteria: “brand fit” and “brand safe”. That’s our way of saying that our advertising partners need to match both what our audience’s like or need and what we stand for as an organization.
What about the data protection issues that you’ve just mentioned?
The advertising industry has always processed and used personal data. But it’s never been harvested at the same rate as in digital advertising, which now has a share of roughly 65% of the total advertising budget worldwide. And there’s fierce competition between the big players, Meta and Google, and new rising stars like TikTok.
That’s why I think the industry needs official regulations for data protection. Personally, I’m a big fan of laws such as the EU’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) Act. But I also believe that advertising businesses should retain some sort of moral code on top of that. In my opinion, InterNations goes a long way to preserve the privacy of our members. We’re doing our best to be less disruptive when it comes to targeting and tracking our audiences.
In your LinkedIn Profile, you describe yourself as a “digital age enthusiast”. So, how did you get into digital advertising in the first place?
One of my jobs was doing in-field promotions or market surveys as part of a direct marketing team. That’s how my interest in the industry started. After graduating from university with a degree in business administration, I started off my career in the ad department of a major Albanian TV station.
After some years in TV advertising, I was looking for new opportunities to learn and grow. That’s why I joined the Internship Program of German Business for the countries of the Western Balkans. I spent a summer in the digital business unit of a large German media group, which gave me an excellent overview of the entire field of digital advertising. Growing up, one of my passions had been electronics and computers. To me, digital advertising felt as if my business background and my personal interests were coming together, and things just “clicked”.
So, I switched directions to digital advertising. First, I was the only digital account manager at one of the top advertising agencies in Tirana, and then I got to lead a small department of my own. Moving on to InterNations was the next obvious step. At the end of day, Albania is a country with fewer than 3 million inhabitants and a small domestic market. So, I was looking abroad for another professional challenge. I was curious to see how advertising works in a bigger and more international context.
And what do you enjoy most about your current job at InterNations?
Before starting at InterNations, I’d never been in a position where I can deploy campaigns running in multiple markets worldwide. The range of clients here is also a lot wider and more global than what I was used to. This means that our campaigns will be targeting people coming from various cultures and living in various countries, which I find really interesting.
For example, I’ve never been to Southeast Asia myself, but I’m now responsible for running ad campaigns in this region. So, I need to figure out how an expat audience in Southeast Asia behaves. And what about our local members there? Is that behavior noticeably different from our members in Germany, in Europe, etc.? The challenges involved are of a completely different scale and nature, which keeps me on my toes.
Image credit: Canva/InterNations