What does an Trading Desk really mean?

trading desk atd

An agency trading desk (ATD) helps advertisers to set up programmatic advertising that really works.

Although buying ad space through programmatic media isn’t too complicated, launching qualitative programmatic ad campaigns with optimal segmentation can be extremely challenging. Therefore, for advertisers, the most sensible thing is to entrust the purchase of media space to a trading desk.

What is a Trading Desk Agency?

What is an Agency Trading Desk (ATD)?

The main trading desk role is to support advertisers to buy programmatic advertising. Using it, the media trader negotiates for his clients the most suitable advertising spaces according to the marketing objectives. An ATD performs the planning, the buying, the management and the programmatic advertising campaigns optimization. 

For advertisers, there are benefits, since the best agency trading desks on the market seek to buy media at a lower price compared to in-house campaigns managing, mainly because, in that way, they are able to serve multiple clients at the same time. 

This was the main advantage in the past, because nowadays they offer a fully complete service, such as products and analysis tools that go beyond planning, buying, managing and campaigns optimizations. 

Is the Trading Desk a Really Necessary Intermediary?

Buying ad space on programmatic doesn’t need to be complicated. But that means using the right dataset to target the right public. Segmentation is, in fact, the most important objective in this type of advertising compared to other digital marketing practices.

However, for an advertiser, correctly configuring the demand-side platform (DSP) and choosing data according to the target audience is often a challenge. Therefore, the trading desk ensures that your advertising campaigns are well conducted.

Trading Desk x Ad Exchange

It is very common to find marketers who confuse the concepts of trading desk and ad exchange. So it is very important that this is clear in your mind.

An ad exchange is the platform where media placements are sold, that is, it is a market. Although most trading desks work on ad exchanges, this is just one of the many work tools they use.

A trading desk is a piece of technology or set of services provided by a media agency. The services are linked to planning, buying, managing and optimizing programmatic advertising campaigns.

Trading Desk x Demand-Side Platform

Although the ATDs are similar to DSPs, the difference is that agency trading desks offer human support, and that’s why they charge fees. 

ATDs have software development specialists, account managers and data analysts working for their clients. They use one or more DSPs, but advertisers don’t have direct access to the available media inventory. 

Normally, ATDs do not make public the actual cost of the media to the client, but on the other hand, they take the risk of earning less or more while delivering the audience or KPIs contracted by the client. 

How Important is a Trading Desk?

From an advertiser’s point of view, having an agency trading desk helps to buy media at a lower price compared to in-house campaign management.

Back in the days, ATDs were well known for offering competitive prices on their media portfolio, mainly because they represented many clients and could negotiate better deals with premium publishers.

Nowadays the situation is different. Although many of the main advantages of using Agency Trading Desks are disputed by large digital advertising companies, such as Google, these companies have evolved and reinvented themselves in many ways when transforming itself into a more complete service, containing several other products and analytical tools that go beyond their definition, as negotiations are transparent and have consolidated technology.

How Does the Trading Desk Work?

A trading desk is an intermediary that buys advertising space on behalf of a brand or marketing agency. That is, it is between the advertiser and the DSPs.

Unlike DSPs that charge fees to brands and agencies, who then buy inventory from SSPs and ad exchanges, ATDs charge their own fees on top of the cost of DSPs.

The operation is based on behavioral targeting through data to determine refined and relevant advertising. The trading desk is made up of a Media Trader and a Media Buyer responsible for programming the campaign, a Data Analyst responsible for analyzing segmentation performance and campaign results and an Account Manager who is in charge of monitoring the relationship.

Your development begins with purchasing media inventory through one or more DSPs. The acquisition is made from sales marketplaces with ad exchanges or supply-side platforms (SSPs).

In order to reach very specific people with the advertisements, the trading company must take into account the marketing objective adopted by the client, which can be to reinforce awareness, attract targets or call to action.

Some ATDs buy media in advance, add a tag, and then sell it to their customers for a higher price, while others buy media through real-time bidding (RTB) and receive a percentage of the budget. They can also combine the two forms of media buying.

The best trading desks are connected to Data Management Platforms (DMPs), which improve the relevance of ads to the target public.

What are the Trading Desk Functions?

The trading desk is an advertising segmentation process. It is also a term used in the financial area to refer to the optimization of the trader’s job using technology. Its main functions are:

  • Targeting a particular internet user through search engine processed data;
  • Study the information left behind by users after web navigation;
  • Develop accurate, relevant and useful criteria in message development;
  • Provide segmented advertising;
  • Negotiate advertising spaces adapted to the advertiser’s marketing objective;
  • Support advertisers and manage the purchase of DOOH media space;
  • Select the effective media devices in order to reach the business final objective;
  • Optimize and monetize the advertising campaign;

What are the Trading Desk Advantages?

Having support in configuring the targeting of campaigns is always advantageous, whether to increase visibility, gain notoriety, launch a new product or increase traffic. It can even become very rewarding, since a trading desk offers:

  • The possibility of carrying out auctions for the purchase and sale of advertising spaces thanks to an automated algorithm;
  • The certain of a high performance digital campaign;
  • Full support and continuous interaction when scaling campaigns;
  • An innovative coordinating strength in a very dynamic market;
  • The best public segmentation leading to optimized campaigns;


Trading desks are constantly evolving to meet the demands and needs of brands and marketing agencies. Certainly, having an experienced partner can support your brand or agency in integrating some of the functionality, helping to improve ad performance and bringing valuable insights into campaigns.

But if your brand or agency has an experienced in-house team, you might want to meet a new SSP partner with their own ad exchange technology and GnetRTB might be the best place for you! Access this link and be assisted by our specialized team.