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Switching from agency trading desk to DSP could mean losing data, warns Vivaki boss

Grace Liau

Grace Liau

The Asia boss of an agency trading desk has sounded a word of caution for advertisers thinking about moving their programmatic trading business out of media agencies to work directly with demand-side platforms.

Grace Liau, APAC general manager of Vivaki, which operates the trading desk Audience on Demand, said that advertisers need to be mindful that making the switch to could mean losing data.

“For any advertiser looking to invest in a standalone DSP, it’s vital they understand the implications of doing so. If the market moves, is that one provider agile enough to move with it? And if you decide to switch, will you be able to take all your data and insights with you? Very often there is a significant cost both financially and in intellectual assets,” she told Mumbrella.

“You only have to read the reports of some standalone DSPs and ad tech companies to see that they are making 50-90 per cent margins,” he said.

Her comments come in the wake a report from the World Federation of Advertisers, published last week, that suggested that big-spending brand owners are losing faith in agency trading desks because of a perceived lack of transparency over the margins media agencies are making on trades, and a lack of control over data.

The study of 43 global advertisers with a combined spend of US$35 billion a year found that spending with agency trading desks has fallen by 15 per cent year on year, while use of independent providers has more than tripled.

Liau agreed with much of the report’s sentiment, saying that trading desks need to have “open and honest relationships with clients.”

“Clients should know what it is they are buying and for how much. They should also know the business model of their agency trading desk. This should apply across the whole industry,” said Liau, whose competitors include WPP’s Xaxis and Omnicom’s Accuen, who have not responded to Mumbrella’s request for comment about the report.

Liau said that Vivaki, the group buying unit for media agencies Zenith Optimedia and Starcom MediaVest group, “wholly embraces” transparency, and works on a percentage of spend model. “Clients know exactly how much of their spend is on media and how much is for agency expertise and technology,” she said.

“One of Audience on Demand’s operating principles is to remain technology and data independent. We give clients the option to specify which providers they would like to use should they have a specific preference.”

“There is no one ‘stack’ that can do it all across the overcrowded ad technology landscape. There is no one standard for measuring viewability. There are multiple technologies for buying and managing data and verifying ad placement,” she told Mumbrella.

“It is why we are perpetually vetting partners through our VivaKi Verified process to determine the leading technology of the moment. The AOD Platform has plug and play flexibility to integrate with the most valuable DSPs and other 3rd party vendors.”

“We select the technology and data providers that best address a client’s particular campaign needs and goals. We are not biased in spending a client’s marketing investments with one platform over another. We make decisions purely on what works for the client including maintaining continuity and historical data, even when switching providers,” she said.

Liau’s remarks come a few months after the APAC head of Xaxis, Michel de Rijk, said at an event in Singapore that most clients are incapable of taking the programmatic buying of media in-house.

He said: “It will be like with search over the years. Some advertisers take it in-house, then they realise that it’s not as easy as they thought, and they bring it back to their agency.”

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