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What is an Agency Trading Desk ?

An Agency Trading Desk (sometimes referred to as an ATD) is at the middle of Programmatic Advertising. The Agency Trading Desk is a programmatic media planning and buying unit within a traditional advertising agency or Agency Holding Company. Some Agency Trading Desks handle data and audience operations also.

Most Agency Trading Desks tend to be DSP agnostic, which means they don’t rely on a single Demand Side Platform for Programmatic Buying. Its not uncommon for An Agency Trading Desk to use 2 or 3 DSPs for an Advertiser. Some advertiser clients will insist the Agency Trading Desks use the client’s own Demand Side Platform or 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 Semi-transparent business or they run a completely non-transparent model often referred to as “Black Box”.

Major Agency Trading Desks from the Agency Holding Companies

Agency Holding Group

Agency Trading Desks

Dentsu Amnet, DentsuX
Interpublic Matterkind (formerly Cadreon)
Publicis Precision (previously known as Vivaki – Audience on Demand)
Havas Havas Programmatic Hub (previously known as Affiperf)
Omnicom Omnicom Media Group (previously known as Accuen)
WPP Xaxis / GroupM PBU

Advertiser-specific Agency Trading Desks

Increasing in popularity is the Advertiser-specific Agency Trading Desk. These are created by agencies to provide transparency, specialized disciplines or unique skill sets.

Here are some brand-based agency trading desks run by Advertising Agencies.

Advertiser-specific Agency Trading Desk 


Headlights (GroupM)  Ford Motors
ULTRA (Mindshare) Unilever


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