Agency Trading Desks on Transparency & Programmatic Guaranteed at AdWeek Europe

As part of Advertising Week Europe in London, we brought together the heads of some of the top agency trading desks for a session we hope will develop into a yearly tradition.

Agency Trading Desks: Guaranteed Delivery? brought together Cadreon (Interpublic), VivaKi (Publicis), AMNET (Aegis) and Xaxis (WPP) as we asked whether trading desks are on track to deliver the goods this year, whether they are transparent enough, and what role programmatic guaranteed will play in 2013.

Paraphrasing GroupM Global Chief Irwin Gotlieb, we started proceedings citing the book of Genesis, where it never said everything had to be fully transparent. But how transparent are the trading desks with their clients?

For AMNET, said its Operations Director for EMEA, Dirk Fiebig, transparency is key, ‘we don’t want to create an agency ad network… planners are encouraged to test it, but there’s no mandate if doesn’t work for the client.’

Meanwhile for Marco Bertozzi, Exec MD for EMEA of VivaKi, there are many different definitions of what transparency means – the bottom line is this: if a trading desk is not performing, then it’s removed from the plan. VivaKi is happy to disclose how it splits media, tech and service charges – and this is often requested, but he suggested the rest of the media plan is never subjected to the same level of scrutiny, nor would it be so open.

The view on this is the same regardless of geography, according to Cadreon UK Head Sandy Hubert: ‘As long as we are providing cost efficiency and driving conversions to our client, that is what matters at the end of the day’.

Xaxis MD for EMEA Caspar Schlickum said WPP’s trading desk is extremely transparent, with costs dependent on whether it is using proprietary or partner tech, data costs etc. Echoing Marco’s earlier point: ‘as long as we’re honest and clear, and the same rigour is applied to other parts of business, fine.’

Agency Trading Desks Guaranteed Delivery -The… by advertisingweek

Programmatic guaranteed

The view from the trading desks on programmatic guaranteed was a little more varied.

Marco seemed bullish on private marketplaces: ‘creating bespoke solutions for our advertisers’, adding more needed to be done in some European countries to bring on premium publishers that dominate in that region. While Caspar chipped in that selling only on spot market is anathema to how advertisers work.

Adding that premium is not just content, but also context, Cadreon UK Head Sandy Hubert seemed less keen on the idea of trading desks working in the guaranteed space: ‘Never forget audience in the first instance.’

In terms of the most progressive countries for the adoption of RTB and private marketplaces, the panel was agreed on the UK, France and the Netherlands leading the market. Dirk added that his own home nation, Germany is ‘2 to 3 years behind’, though Caspar added  it’s not a market that should have an issue with private marketplaces (or indeed programmatic guaranteed.)

If there’s one thing you take from this panel, in the words of Marco, it’s that the Death Star quality in how people often talk about trading desks is highly misleading. Behind the scenes, it’s all about very passionate people trying to get good results: ‘there is a friendly face to all of this’.

Though each of the different agency groups is organising their desk slightly differently, the promise is the same: speed and efficiency, in an ever-growing number of regions.

Will the ATDs deliver programmatic guaranteed this year? Will we see full transparency? Will they shed their ‘Death Star’ image after all?

Looking forward to next year’s update to find out.

Watch a video of the full panel here.

Read Q&As with each of the panellists:

Sandy Hubert, Head of Cadreon UK interview

Marco Bertozzi, VivaKi Executive MD EMEA interview

Caspar Schlickum, Xaxis MD for EMEA interview

Dirk Fiebig, AMNET Operations Director EMEA interview