Trading desk debates often ignore the underlying technologies

What is missing from the recent article published on Media Week (‘Trading desks: Are independents the answer to client concerns?’) is that brands shouldn’t be concerning themselves with the question of agency versus independent, but should focus on what marketing objectives they are trying to achieve.

It should be about what unique tools and strategies an agency can use alongside its trading desk that will help them with these goals.

First let’s clarify a few points in the piece. It says trading desks work directly with clients – this isn’t always the case. What is more important for brands using agencies to establish, is this point – which just isn’t true in a number of cases – “most independents have invested in building their own technology rather than licensing a third-party development”.

In fact, many independent trading desks use the same DSP technology as the agency trading desks, often as a result of “white-labelling” of advertising technology.

Furthermore, the independent trading desks usually have access to exactly the same third-party data providers and inventory as the agency trading desks – so there is little to differentiate them apart from the skills of the people who run them.

The article also ignored the fact that there are another group of advertising technology companies who work comfortably alongside trading desks, using their own proprietary technology that offer unique tools and strategies that really offer something new.

Companies such as Rocket Fuel, Quantcast and Crimtan work with trading desks to provide many of the benefits that an independent trading desk offers, such as transparent trading and being results driven, but also have other advantages. These include having access to unique data and inventory outside of ad exchanges, in addition to customised campaign reports and insights into targeting and optimisation strategies.

So with that in mind, asking who’s best, independent or agency, is the wrong question.

Instead, brands should ensure that they empower their agencies to identify, examine and test all providers who offer unique, specialist technology, tools, strategy and skills that can work alongside a trading desk and ultimately deliver the best ROI for them.

I would suggest that this can be done as a sensible first step without taking the drastic decision to ditch the agency trading desk entirely and go directly to an independent trading desk.

While advertisers may try to boil the argument down to a simplistic pro and con list, life is rarely that simple and the advertising technology market is no different. Every brand and every marketing objective is different and needs its own unique solutions.

These are rarely found in just one company and it’s an agency’s job to find out what works best for each client.

This article appeared in Media Week.

By Adrian Lacey, managing director of Crimtan UK.