What is an Independent Trading Desk ?

An Independent Trading Desk is a company that specializes in the buying and selling of digital advertising space using programmatic advertising techniques and is owned and operated independently not by an agency or agency holding group.

Independent Trading Desks typically consist of a smaller team of experts who are highly specialized in programmatic advertising, which allows them to analyze data more efficiently and make smarter decisions.

Independent Trading Desks offer a range of services to advertisers, including media planning and buying, ad trafficking, optimization, and data analysis. These services can be tailored to fit the specific needs of each advertiser, depending on their budget and requirements. For example, an advertiser may choose to mix and match a variety of services, such as campaign execution and management, data analysis, and even content creation.

What are the Differences between an Independent Trading Desk and an Agency Trading Desk?

One of the main differences between an independent trading desk and an agency trading desk is their level of independence. Independent trading desks operate as standalone entities with no ties to any larger media agency or agency holding group. This allows them to focus solely on programmatic buying and to offer their services to a wide range of clients. In contrast, Agency Trading Desks are typically part of a larger media agency and may share resources with other divisions within the agency. Generally speaking, the advertiser clients of an Agency Trading Desks are typically the agency’s existing clients, thus sourcing campaigns from within the agency.

However, many Independent Trading Desks are hired or engaged by Advertising Agencies to manage their programmatic advertising campaigns, primarily because they are staffed up and resourced to execute quickly.

Another difference between Independent Trading Desks and Agency Trading Desks is their business model. Independent trading desks typically charge clients a fee for their services. These could include services like media planning, media buying, ad trafficking, optimization, and data analysis. In contrast, Agency Trading Desks often earn revenue through a combination of fees and commissions from the media they buy on behalf of their clients.

What are the Benefits of Independent Trading Desks?

There are several benefits to using an Independent Trading Desk for programmatic advertising. One benefit is the ability to access a wide range of ad inventory from a variety of sources. Independent Trading Desks typically have relationships with multiple ad exchanges and supply-side platforms (SSPs), which allows them to access a large pool of ad inventory from publishers around the world. This can be particularly useful for advertisers who want to reach a specific target audience, as independent trading desks can help to identify and access the most relevant ad inventory for a given campaign.

Independent Trading Desks offer transparency and accountability that can be difficult to achieve when working directly with agencies, some of which operate on the “Black Box Model” ie they offer zero transparency.

Independent Trading Desks also offer a level of personal attention and efficiency that may not be available from larger agency trading desks. Because they are independently owned and operated, Independent Trading Desk are able to focus more closely on the needs of each advertiser and provide more personalized service. This can be particularly valuable for advertisers who are looking for a more hands-on approach to their programmatic advertising efforts.

Examples of Independent Trading Desks

There is a misconception or confusion that DSPs are also Independent Trading Desks. They are not. Most DSPs will run a managed services very similar to Independent Trading Desks, however, they generally do this for a short period of time before handing the operations back to the brand and the advertiser will use the DSP as intended i.e. a Self Service DSP.

It is worth noting that the programmatic advertising industry is constantly evolving, and M&A (mergers and acquisitions) activity is common. This means that the list of independent trading desks may change over time. So this list of Independent
Trading Desks is our opinion and current;

  • Programmatic Mechanics: Based in NYC
  • Captify: Headquartered in London
  • MiQ Digital: Global presence
  • Goodway Group: Based in the USA
  • Cybba: Based in Boston
  • Trade Indy: Based in Melbourne, Australia
  • Acquire: Based in Auckland, New Zealand