It can sometimes feel like we are drowning in data but struggling to find actionable insights. Brands and advertisers face trying to accurately measure and attribute the performance of their campaigns, with little standardization between ad networks and platforms and many major internet companies operating their own walled gardens.
That’s where a trading desk has an advantage over Demand-Side Platforms (DSPs), which have become more widespread, but which are typically designed to handle the buy side of the advertising mix without the same level of insight. Automated trading desks offer advertisers more transparency, comparing performance across different in-app and web environments, across different devices, and even different languages and geographies.
Why a trading desk and not just another programmatic platform?
Programmatic platforms are specifically designed to automate the organization, bidding, and fulfillment of ad placement on a massive scale, thanks to their complex and very clever algorithms. What they are not designed to do is work across different and often disparate platforms.
Agency Trading Desks (ATDs) are used by many agencies to connect together DSPs, DMPs and other programmatic platforms to allow much simpler planning and buying at scale. The difference between these and the next generation of trading desks is the ability to combine those disparate media platforms with programmatic traffic through a single interface. It’s about reducing complexity.
We all know that a burning issue for everyone – both advertisers and tech platforms – is complexity. We are seeing a big increase in the complexity of campaigns, as advertisers are presented with ever more publications across many different media categories – plus the increasing use of social media influencers as part of the advertising mix.
Alongside the growing complexity of the media landscape, there is a demand from clients to know every metric of a campaign’s performance. Clicks, installs, and impressions help to show the Return on Ad Spend (ROAS). On top of that, advertisers want to see behavioral data such as in-app events, installs and conversions, daily and monthly active users and more.
The importance of APIs
No wonder ad tech companies are looking at trading desks as a solution. But most existing trading desks are not built to cope with the media landscape as it is today. The next generation of trading desks will use APIs to directly connect to the walled gardens we’ve already mentioned.
By using APIs to connect to inventory partners and attribution partners, advertisers can have a completely transparent and unbiased view right across their campaigns – all from a single dashboard. This is the basis of what we’ll inevitably see happening in the next few years; an ability to connect marketing inputs with real-world business outcomes, all in real-time, through multiple API integrations alongside more conventional RTB traffic and ad networks.
APIs are important not just because they allow us to connect media platforms like Facebook and TikTok that would otherwise be siloed. APIs can also drive more standardization between platforms, meaning automated media buying becomes possible with the right tools.
For example, influencer marketing has become a very important tool for reaching certain audiences but relies on time-consuming, manual planning – often down to dealing with influencers individually. Now, we are seeing platforms like Snap and Instagram building tools designed to allow marketers to build influencer campaigns at scale. By integrating these APIs into a trading desk model, it becomes possible to remove a lot of the difficulty in using these platforms, as one platform might aggregate hundreds of leading influencers with a combined reach of millions.
An easier way to build global campaigns
Building global campaigns means helping Western brands understand and access the Chinese and APAC markets, while also assisting Chinese brands make their first push towards Western consumers. This means working with platforms like Baidu, Tencent, Bytedance and Alibaba, and other up-and-coming platforms like Bilibili and Zhihu – plus Facebook, Google, Apple and more.
Collectively, those platforms reach billions of consumers every day. As campaigns become more complex and advertisers look to use many different channels within a single campaign, they need tools that let them understand campaign performance and return on investment. It’s about transparency and control.
That demand for transparency is why you will see more companies launching API-based trading desks in the next couple of years. Brands and advertisers will always want more transparency, and we know that the current ad tech landscape doesn’t really deliver this in its current form – which suggests the time is right for the next generation of trading desks to emerge.
Tiffany Ou is a seasoned mobile advertising professional, bringing over 17 years of industry experience to her clients. Tiffany has been General Manager, Americas at Nativex for two years and leads the go-to-market strategies for leading game and app developers. Prior to Nativex, Tiffany managed multi-channel advertising projects at a number of major advertising agencies.