Despite the pandemic, The Trade Desk’s year over year Q4 growth accelerated in 2020, increasing revenue 48% to $320 million. In Q4 2019, the demand-side platform’s revenue grew 35%.
In 2020, marketers using the Trade Desk’s sent $4.2 billion in ad spend through the demand-side platform. Spurred by the pandemic, they doubled the amount they spent on CTV advertising over the course of the year. In 2020, more than 1,000 brands spent at least $100,000 in CTV. The number of brands spending more than $1 million in CTV doubled.
“CTV is a Trojan horse for the acceleration of programmatic across the ad industry,” said the Trade Desk CEO Jeff Green, implying that as more ad formats become automated, the Trade Desk platform will help marketers spend those ad dollars.
Plus, walled gardens generally don’t compete for CTV dollars. “Walled gardens are not the easy on ramp for CTV,” he said.
Besides the growth of CTV, Green said that advertisers see the open internet – where the Trade Desk buys – as an appealing alternative to user-generated content. During the American presidential election and the global pandemic, more brands sought refuge from misinformation and divisiveness.
Health and fitness advertisers were the biggest advertiser vertical of the year, Green said, followed by food and drink, garden and automotive advertisers. And car advertisers returned in a “particularly encouraging” way in Q4, Green said. Travel, on the other hand, still has a lot of room to bounce back.
The future of identity
Programmatic buying requires the ability to target users and optimize based on what they do, like click on ads and buy things. Green assured investors that The Trade Desk will be able to continue to target and measure even after third-party cookies in web browsers and IDFAs in mobile apps go away.
“We are a DSP, not a publisher,” Green told investors. While Snapchat or Pinterest might struggle to monetize an ad impression without an IDFA, The Trade Desk’s advertisers can just buy elsewhere. “We look at 12 million ad opportunities a second. So if 1 million of them have an identifier missing, we still have 11 million to choose from…I don’t think this will have a material impact on our business.”
To replace the loss of cookies in display and mobile web advertising, the Trade Desk has brought multiple ad tech companies and publishers to support Unifed ID 2.0, “the new common currency of the open internet,” Green said. Unified ID 2.0 is designed to preserve privacy and user controls and it is also free.
“As we speak, it’s being integrated into the transactional pipes of the open internet,” Green said. On Wednesday, the Trade Desk said the independent organization Prebid.org will operate and house the Unified ID 2.0, ensuring it’s viewed as an independent industry ID.
More partnerships like Walmart’s?
The Trade Desk’s reputation as an independent and neutral platform lets it operate as a white-labeled DSP for advertisers. Walmart, for example, created a custom setup with Trade Desk that allows it to securely bring in its shopper data to marketers.
“They could have built their own platform, which makes us even more honored,” Green. He said the Trade Desk might have started with a retail giant, but it can create similar setups with other companies in the future.