What is an Agency Trading Desk ?

An Agency Trading Desk (sometimes referred to as an ATD) is a programmatic media planning and buying unit within a traditional advertising agency or Agency Holding Company. Some also handle data operations also.

Most Agency Trading Desk tend to be DSP agnostic, which means they don’t rely on a single Demand Side Platform for Programmatic Buying. Some advertiser clients will insist the Agency Trading Desks use the clients own DSP of choice.

Agency Trading Desk source their clients in two main ways;

  1. A Partner agency in the same agency holding group; or
  2. An Advertiser Direct Relationship

Despite an agency having an Agency Trading Desk, we still see programmatic buying coming from traditional media buying agencies.

Agency Trading Desks typically run a fully Transparent or Semitransparent business or they run a completely non-transparent model often referred to as “Black Box”.

Major Agency Trading Desks from the Agency Holding Groups are as follows.

Dentsu = Ament, DentsuX

Interpublic = Cadreon

Publicis = Precision  (previously known as Vivaki – Audience on Demand)

Havas = Affiperf

Omnicom = Omnicom Media Group (previously known as Accuen )

WPP = Xaxis / GroupM PBU

Increasing in popularity is the advertiser specific Agency Trading Desk. These are created by agencies to provide transparency, specialized disciplines or unique skill sets. Two examples of brand-based agency trading desks would be Headlights (GroupM) by Ford Motors or ULTRA (Mindshare) by Unilever.


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