<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none;" alt="" src="https://dc.ads.linkedin.com/collect/?pid=88527&amp;fmt=gif">

The Pros & Cons of Ad Networks and Agency Trading Desks

Strategy By: MarketingApr 2, 2018

There are different ways an advertiser can approach programmatic advertising. Each has their own pros and cons.

In this post we explore two different ways: ad networks, and agency trading desks. 

What are they? What are the advantages and disadvantages of using them?

Ad Networks

Ad networks aggregate media inventory and data to sell to advertisers looking for a defined outcome. An advertiser who wants to reach a specific target audience may work with an ‘audience buying’ ad network. Another advertiser wanting to bring users back to their site to complete a purchase would employ a ‘retargeting network’.



+ An advertiser pays for activity around the defined outcome desired

+ The low commitment, month-by-month IO model makes this a good choice for advertisers with budget restrictions



– Advertisers can experience a lack of reporting regarding which domains and pages their ads appeared on

– Ad networks provide limited transparency in performance, making analysing and improving strategy difficult

– Whilst the activity is set around a specific outcome, how that outcome is reached is not transparent, leaving questions about the true effectiveness of the campaign


This article is an excerpt taking from the ISBA & Infectious Media Guide to Programmatic.


Agency Trading Desks

Owned by the top agency holding groups, agency trading desks are their preferred programmatic partners. Agency trading desks manage some of the largest budgets in programmatic and provide a ‘centre of excellence’ for the agency’s clients.


+ Agencies can negotiate preferential rates with publishers when setting up private marketplaces

+ Media buying is all held within one organisation, so there is only one partner to manage



– Some agencies aren’t able to be wholly transparent in their use of agency trading desks, the cost of the media bought or where ads appear

– Practices like double-charging, rebates and arbitrage undermine advertiser confidence in the service they are getting

– There can be some distance and a disconnect between an advertiser’s regular agency contact and the person managing their programmatic spend, leading to a lack of strategic direction, control and reporting


Everything you need to know about programmatic series featuring extracts from our co-authored guide with ISBA - This extract is taken from Volume 3.

Download the full guides here


Get monthly programmatic insights into your inbox