A trading desk is a collection of human, organisational and technological means implemented to optmize digital advertisers’ budgets mainly through real time bidding and ad exchanges. It’s a service dedicated to help advertisers and agencies buying online advertising.
It can be also defined as an advertising technology platform combined with human skills in advertising and technology that constitutes an access point to the complex digital advertising marketplace.
Within a trading desk, human ressources and skills are mainly software engineers, algorithm specialists, analysts and digital media strategists, account manager and buyers. Big agency trading desks count over 50 employees.
On the technological side, tools are essentially DSPs, APIs, DMPs and ad servers. The demand side platform (DSP) within a trading desk is integrated with ad exchanges, SSPs and networks.
Main missions of a trading desk are to optimize buying and campaign deployment according to advertisers’ goals - based on CPM, CPC, CPA and other branding metrics - while ensuring brand safety. It also manages data by using advertiser data for targeting and possibly giving back new data. And finally it ensures reporting and billing across the different third party - data vendor and Adex/networks/publishers.
Originally, the first structures called trading desk were essentially agency trading desks. Due to the advertising ecosystem evolution and "issues" or questions related to agency trading desks - see agency trading desk for more details -, new forms of trading desk have appeared.
Trading desk can be paid according to campaign budget, technical fees and labor-based fees.
A recurrent and difficult question is "what the difference between a trading desk and a DSP". At first it was "easy", a DSP was only a technological tool to access ad exchanges. As some DSPs have developed services and consulting and some trading desk developed their own technological tool, frontiers are blurring. The line is now thin between some retargeting DSPs and some independant trading desks.
An example of job announcement for a trading desk specialist which helps to apprehend a trading desk activity:
An illustration of a trading desk:
Image credit Serranetga