Trading Desks Are Building (And Buying) Their Way To A Persistent Identifier

ipHolding company trading desks this year are putting the focus on data and the ability to identify a customer across screens and platforms.

That focus made owning data mission critical, and it’s shifted the focus away from programmatic as a silo and toward data management and activation across the board.

As a result, “trading desk” has become somewhat of a dirty phrase.

“We really don’t look at Amnet as a trading desk [anymore],” said Art Muldoon, co-CEO of the Dentsu Aegis programmatic unit, at AdExchanger’s Industry Preview in New York City on Thursday. “It’s really about the way we can harness clients’ audiences, create specific segments and activate against them.”

To do so, Dentsu has made strategic acquisitions in data and technology, both with programmatic specialist Accordant Media (through which Muldoon joined the company) and CRM and database agency Merkle.

Muldoon calls both purchases “deliberate moves toward owning more data.”

Investments in technology have helped agencies get closer to that cross-channel consumer view. But they touch on the thorny issue of whether or not agencies should be able to invest in technology, which the Association of National Advertisers noted as an area of concern in its agency transparency report last June.

Holding company executives argue that investing in technology is the only way to gain a unique advantage in a marketplace full of walled gardens. By owning more data, agencies have a chance to compete with platforms like Facebook and Google. 

“When you’re completely tech agnostic and your try to be all things to all people, you create inefficiencies,” Muldoon said. “By creating bias and making bets, we have a consistent ID that can flow through our system. As a result of technology and data ownership, marketers [can] see custom audiences [and] insights out of the efficiencies of the activation.”

GroupM has made a similar bet on audience data with its [m]Platform initiative. The idea behind [m]platform is to create an “mID” that “helps marketers bring together disparate data sources, find that ID across channels and engage with folks [across platforms] in a way that’s measurable,” said Matt Sweeney, North American CEO of Xaxis.

“Marketers want to break down the silos,” he said. “The best way for GroupM and Xaxis to understand fundamentally who that person is and what they do both online and offline is to build technology.”

While IPG Mediabrands hasn’t decentralized its trading desk, it will continue to build technology on top of its AMP platform to help it peer across walled gardens, said global President Arun Kumar.

“We’re looking at how do we integrate across walled gardens and what are the data sets we need,” he said. “A lot of our work has been building platforms less so from a programmatic perspective and more so for the planning agencies to be able to create insights.”

Trading desks are also using the complexity of first-party data as an opportunity to act as a consultant – helping clients identify and activate their CRM and other data assets, Xaxis’ Sweeney said.

“[Marketers] need to get smart quickly and they’re looking for trusted advisers,” he said. “The best meetings tend to be around first-party data, what they have and how they can activate it.”

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