The Trading Desk is Dead: Long Live the Trade!

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The Trading Desk is DeadThe great thing about writing 500 words about our business every week is that occasionally you end up looking smart in hindsight. Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then. Last Friday afternoon – as most of us had already started bugging out for the long holiday weekend – Publicis quietly pulled the plug on programmatic buying at Vivaki.   In an October 2013 post (“Letting Go of the Tiger’s Ears”) I wrote…

…I believe the agencies …did themselves a huge disservice by playing out of position over the last 4-5 years in the run up to “the programmatic age.”…First, there was the decision to create standalone business units in the first place. Might it not have been better to let a thousand flowers of automated trading bloom within the daughter agencies rather than concentrate it all at the holding company level? Perhaps they missed the chance to strengthen ALL the pillars of their business rather than devoting so much time and effort to explain yet another corporate brand and operating model to increasingly skeptical clients?

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I’m certainly not the only one to predict the demise of the holding company trading desk model: I said as much in that 2013 post:

“….I’ve heard people stand up at conferences and say that the holding company level trading desks will go away within a couple of years; that they’ll be replaced by client side operations (like P&G’s Hawkeye) and by a migration of programmatic bidding to the individual media agency level. Such a monolithic assessment is almost surely going to be right and wrong at the same time. These are wildly different businesses who are making different decisions. For one thing, there’s a lot of work ahead helping clients manage the nuanced business and buying decisions within private marketplaces.”

So now as we edge into 2015 the land grab abates and the real work of programmatic has begun in earnest: figuring out complex private marketplaces and programmatic direct deals and determining how programmatic lives symbiotically alongside the high margin native, branded content and video advertising. This is not work to be done in a silo by a handful of holding company execs. There’s plenty here for all of us to do.

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