ANA Exec Duggan Reviews Whitepaper For Marketers On Agency Trading Desks – Download Available

Bill Duggan of the ANABill Duggan is Group Executive Vice President at the Association of National Advertisers, a trade association for the marketer and which “leads the marketing community by providing its members insights, collaboration, and advocacy.”

Duggan discussed the trade group’s latest whitepaper (read the release) which reviews on behalf of marketers the agency trading desk model. Download it here (PDF). What were the triggers for the ANA creating this white paper?

BD: A member of our Board of Directors came to us in the summer and said, “What’s ANA’s perspective on agency trading desks?” And people like myself said, “What’s an agency trading desk?”

So, I asked our Marketing Knowledge Center to do a little due diligence to see what we could find about agency trading desks, and we found a couple of articles that were somewhat inflammatory about agency trading desks.

Then we found this great link to a YouTube video where there was a moderator at a conference, and three panelists. The moderator said to the panelists, “What’s your view of agency trading desks?” and all three said, “What? Huh? Um?”

Then, in the committees that I manage – over the course of a month and a half, five or six different committees – I asked the question, “Do you know what an agency trading desk is?” 80% of the audience did not. 10% did, but it was kind of fuzzy. Another 10% did, and had some more intimate knowledge.

Part of our first step was an education process, where we ran two committee meetings where the purpose was to invite in experts on agency trading desks to help educate us. Those people were recognized in the acknowledgments of the white paper.

How did the meetings play out?

It wasn’t meant to be a debate about “Are agency trading desks good or bad?” Certainly, that would have its place somewhere, but the purpose at these meetings was strictly educational from the perspective of agency trading desks.  We had folks in from the IPG desk, WPP and Publicis. We had a great industry expert (Joanna O’Connell) from Forrester Research. That was part of the deep dive of our education – doing those two different panel discussions at two separate ANA meetings.

But, originally, it was because we got a request from a senior guy.

So, why is it important that an industry organization like the ANA gets involved in something like agency trading desks or other innovations that are going on in this space?

One of our purposes is to help educate our members and make sure that their marketing and advertising investments are effective, and that they understand how their money is being spent. When we discovered a lack of awareness among many of our members, of agency trading desks, we thought that it was important for ANA to help educate.

Has there been any reaction, thus far, from the membership? Or a little bit early?

We did a soft launch of the white paper a couple of weeks ago. When I say “soft launch,” not to the press. We released it to some of our members. The press release was just this week. The reaction that we’ve gotten in some of our committee meetings was, “Thank you for this resource, because it does serve as a great education piece.” There are members skeptical of the purpose and the motivations of agency trading desks.

Our purpose of the white paper, by the way, was not to say that they’re bad or good, but to try and paint a balanced picture of the purpose of agency trading desks as well as what some of the common critiques have been, what the benefits are, and then end up by saying to members, “Make sure you ask these questions.”

If agency trading desks do become something that marketers want to pursue more, is there a committee that occurs? What might be the next steps?

This will be an active topic of discussion in different ANA committees, going forward. For example, when I leave here today, our TV and Digital Committee meets. Joanna O’Connell from Forrester, who was one of the resources of the white paper, is going to visit with the committee and talk about agency trading desks.

This is an issue that cuts across different ANA committees, and we’ll continue to have conversations about it.

What are some of the key takeaways when you think about this paper, that you had?

It’s really what we say in the last part of the trading desk white paper. “Have a conversation with your agency. First of all, understand if a trading desk is being used.” I believe that there are instances, maybe few, but maybe many, where a trading desk is being used and the client is not aware of it. First and foremost, there needs to be that transparency. And there are some trading desks, like WPP’s, that mark up the media. They don’t like to use that term, “mark up,” which is probably fair, because they say that they add value to the media between the time they buy it and resell it to a client. But there are some trading desks that have that model, so anybody working with WPP needs to understand that and be comfortable with that.

It seems like it’s a better opportunity than ever for agencies to help guide the marketer. Where do you think the agency role is, right now, for the marketer?

Certainly agencies can be a big education resource but it’s also tricky for agencies because clients have more agencies now than ever before. I remember when a client would have one lead agency, and the agency would do the marketing plan for the client. That wasn’t that long ago. These days, with media fragmentation, there could be a mobile agency, a social media agency and a search agency. They could be three different agencies – and that’s a challenge for the marketers to integrate all of that agency work.

But it’s also got to be a challenge for agencies. For example, PR agencies ‑‑ think about social media. Who owns social media? It’s PR agencies, it’s a “digital” agency, and by the way, the term “digital agency” hopefully won’t exist in five years because every agency is a digital agency. Agencies seem to have more competition than ever before. Any time there’s a new medium, there are specialty agencies that pop up – but there are also established agencies that see that as an opportunity.

By John Ebbert

Follow Bill Duggan (@billduggan), ANA (@anamarketers) and (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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  1. The reason WPP and GroupM do not use the term ‘mark-up’ is because it’s simply not accurate. We do not mark up media. We’ve explained this to the ANA. To date over 650 advertisers have agreed that our model is better at aligning advertisers’ interests with our own. Xaxis combines trading leverage with our own data and technology to deliver guaranteed lowest pricing, performance, and comprehensive insights. We do this in 13 markets around the world. If anybody would like to learn how we work, please contact me directly and I’ll happily explain our business in detail.

  2. Interesting interview and insights. Two things stand out to me: 1) many clients do not know that heir agency is using and has its own trading desk designed as a profit center for the agency, and 2) trading desks have differing models including network type models as described above in regard to WPP (not different than network models that have existed for many years in terms of combining trading leverage and data to provide value for clients) and models such as Vivaki, who act more as a systems integrator. What is most interesting is that there continues to be a lack of complete transparency , which is counterintuitive to how agencies have pushed technology companies and networks for visibility for years.