Demand-Side Platform The Trade Desk Focused On Entire Online Ad Ecosystem, Not Just RTB Display Says CEO Green

The Trade DeskJeff Green is CEO of The Trade Desk, a demand-side platform for digital media. We touched on it before, but what problem is The Trade Desk solving?

We think there are two really difficult problems that we’re addressing.

  1. What is it worth to an advertiser to show an ad to this user, with these characteristics, on this particular website, at this moment?
  2. What is the most effective and scalable way to express what an advertiser/agency wants to achieve with their target audience?

Said another way—We enable precision pricing for every impression in a manageable way.

Because online advertising is competitive and barriers to entry are low (although the bar is rising), this industry will become more efficient, transparent, and effective. We are building a product for sophisticated buyers and traders of online media.

Until this evolution happens, the bulk of brand dollars will be spent on other channels and formats. We realize the only way to buy anything effectively is to know what you are buying.  That’s not the case with most display today. Building on the existing benefits of real-time bidding (RTB) ecosystems, The Trade Desk has created tools and a service team that create real price discovery – the ability for a buyer to have enough information to value each impression.

Additionally, online advertising as an industry is again becoming fragmented and therefore very confusing to agencies and advertisers.  We’re focused on making online advertising simple and transparent.  The Trade Desk enables you to manage all online channels and see the entire sales funnel on one platform.

How do you differentiate your solution?  Do you consider The Trade Desk in the DSP category?

Early on, we seriously considered having our tagline be, “Not Another DSP”.  I joke that there are hotdog stands on Madison Ave that are calling themselves DSPs; the term has been diluted.  The need for a DSP and efficiency in the ecosystem is higher than ever before, since RTB is growing faster than RTB expertise is.

Nevertheless, in the literal sense, we are a Demand Side Platform, so yes.

Recently, it seems DSP has become synonymous with RTB; but it has to be more than just RTB, and even more than display.  We specialize in real-time bidding, but have a holistic view of all digital media.  The Trade Desk is focused on the entire breadth of the online advertising ecosystem, not just RTB display inventory.

The three main differentiators that distinguish The Trade Desk from other DSPs:

  1. We focus on evaluating the entire sales funnel, from brand awareness down to consumer actions, and again, we do this across all channels – display, search, video, social and email.  Over and over again, we hear from our clients how valuable they find our reporting. At a macro level, we’re showing agencies real insights about their entire online spend, for example, the uplift their display campaigns have on search results. On a more day-to-day basis, we’re giving buyers the convenience of seeing all of their results in a single report.
  2. Another primary differentiator is the way in which we are building our technology stack.  The Trade Desk’s core business is our ability to value display advertising.  Our core display offering includes inventory integrations with the major exchanges (where our bidder operates), universal tracking, and data integrations..  But with channels outside of display, we are forming strong partnerships, rather than try and build everything ourselves and be all things to all people. We think any company trying to be an expert in more than one channel is going to end up with a diluted product.
  3. The Trade Desk’s valuation engine, bidder, and bid management software are so sophisticated and effective in part because they leverage such a vast amount of data to aid in their decisioning.  It’s our approach to data, in particular our attention to data rights management and protection, and our ability to manage lots of different bid expressions that allows never before used data to come online.

We empower our customers with a much more holistic buying solution.  So if you need to categorize us, think of us as a DSP 2.0.

What or who is the target client?  What are some of their characteristics?

Our current clients typically fall into two categories: 1)  Agencies and advertisers who want to buy highly effective display ads and see actionable insights from all channels in one dashboard.  2) Technology platforms in other channels that service the demand side and represent a meaningful amount of demand.

Our pitch is attractive to buyers both big and small. We’re working with holding companies, independent agencies, and are also establishing ourselves as the go-to partner for search agencies who understand how powerful it is to manage search and display together.

Ultimately, we’d like to see offline brand dollars start to flow online to reach their target audiences, now that it can be done at scale and across all online channels.  We hope this way of thinking speaks to the CMOs of major brand advertisers, who have the most to gain from the efficiencies we provide

With CMOs, why educate them in particular?

Historically, most CMOs have believed that Search is the only online advertising media that enables marketers to regularly and repeatedly know what they are buying.  While that is changing, it’s still true—which is why digital is still living far below its potential share of the pie.  A big part of this problem relates to how we as an industry attribute success to online campaigns.  Generally as an industry, this is done very poorly.  The one attribution model that almost everyone agrees is wrong is giving all the credit to the last click.

When success is measured by ROI, or ROAS, marketers need measurable results.  They also need to know how other channels beyond search contributed to the overall campaign goals.  We make a point of educating CMOs that the real problem is the incomplete view of how different forms of online advertising interact with each other.  The Trade Desk has spent a lot of resources on attribution – helping marketers understand what efforts drove specific results. Better attribution gives CMOs the confidence and assurance that their online media spend is made up of dollars well spent.

What that means is we think we give our agency clients a really strong story to tell their brand advertisers.  CMOs will be our biggest fans and ultimately the ones who will champion our product.

What is the data strategy with your product offering?   Any plans on helping advertisers solve attribution?

To be the best at valuing media, and to extract the most value out of every single impression, you need massive amounts of data.  We have a unique approach to data, and particularly the protection of that data, that allows for more inclusive and effective use of it.  There will be more on TTD’s data strategy coming out in the next few months, so expect to hear about new data troves coming online due to TTD’s approach. We are constantly in discussions with companies who have unique data pools, and welcome these conversations.

We touched on attribution a bit earlier, but here’s how we think about it.  To understand attribution you need to think of marketing as occurring within a sales funnel. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll assume we’re just talking about online advertising for now.  In online advertising, everything is measureable and trackable which means you can measure how different campaigns affect activity further down the funnel.  So, for example, we can tell an advertiser that Display campaign #1 drove lots of searches that led to conversions, whereas Display campaign #2 did a lot better on the branding side, introducing customers to the product.  We go beyond reports and statistics, which are necessary by not sufficient.  Our attribution reports let advertisers act immediately on the insights that The Trade Desk mines, and buy more effectively.

By tracking all of this, marketers are able to properly attribute what efforts actually drove results and ROI.  By attributing what drives results, marketers will know where to spend their online dollars most effectively.

Regarding your partnership with Acquisio, can we expect more of these partnerships across digital channels?

We are very pleased with our partnership with Acquisio. We’re going to continue to sign new partnerships that give our customers more channels, more data, and more unique insights to inform their media buys. Much more is in the works with other channels and we’ll continue to weave everything onto the same platform.

What’s surprised you in the digital ad ecosystem this year?

I continue to be surprised by the sheer volume of opportunity that’s out there in RTB and how nascent the data space is. There is so much opportunity.  It is funny because I’ve been involved in RTB since its inception, but I still marvel at how quickly things change and how big this space is getting.

It’s also funny to hear people talk about ad tech and even RTB being overinvested.  The number of companies on the LUMA Partners eye chart scares people.  I see so much opportunity and the rate of growth is accelerating so quickly that I just don’t think there is overinvestment.  I do think there is some bad investment, as always.  Also, I think certain companies have taken too much money in comparison with what their charter is, but I’m constantly surprised at the size of the RTB opportunity.

What will be the success metrics a client uses to measure The Trade Desk?

It really depends on the client’s goals.  We believe that Display spend widens the entire sales funnel from top to bottom, so success will ultimately be measured at the bottom of the funnel—where the customer actions and conversions take place.  Too often in online, we hear advertisers drawing a line in the sand between their branding campaigns and their direct response campaigns. The world isn’t that black and white. We measure the impact on both objectives within the same campaign.

At the end of the day, we need to demonstrate ROI to our clients—showing mathematical correlation between our efforts and client success.

We are also working on some really innovative ways to measure brand awareness, recall, and tying online channels to offline marketing efforts. Those things are part of our effort to get more brand dollars online.

Follow Jeff Green (@jefftgreen), The Trade Desk (@TheTradeDeskinc) and (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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