We’re often asked how much it costs to make a Trading Desk system. We literally just the other day received this letter:
“…I must know how much it costs to develop a complete Agency Trading Desk, even just a ballpark figure… It would be a big help if you could give me an approximate cost…”

When you start developing what our correspondents imply by an Agency Trading Desk (ATD), it turns out that their understandings differ.

We have several ATDs at various stages of development. Before starting development, we looked at quite a few commercial systems. “Looked at” isn’t the best word, but maybe evaluate; by this we mean our analysts combed the length and breadth of functions and conducted a detailed analysis of the fundamental features.

We’ll soon be placing a description of several systems here. We will start with TheTradeDesk and Cappture. These choices may seems somewhat strange. TheTradeDesk is without a doubt the leader in its field; it’s a full DSP with a very richly functional ATD, especially in terms of RTB purchasing. Cappture is a new and, at the moment, fairly unknown system. As it turned out, one of our Japanese clients, a digital agency representative, uses exactly these systems and wanted to create several hybrid functions in their own ATD system.

And anyway, what is this beast known as Trading Desk? You can find a few definitions. Usually, ATD is understood as several automated superstructures on media and audience buying platforms on various digital channels. In other words, this is a one-window system which allows the audience to make purchases on multiple RTB channels (web, mobile, video) and advertising networks, as well as to automate direct media purchases, analyze and compare the effectiveness of various channels, and prepare reports for clients.

A typical ATD architecture looks like this:


The majority of network agencies have their own TD: Xaxis by WPP, Accuen by Omnicom, Amnet by Dentsu, etc. This is the first kind of ATD which is honed to the needs of separate agencies and their clients.  Another kind of ATD is a public Internet service, which allows any agency to register and begin using TD functions.

A different classification can be done on the basis of basic functions.  Trading Desk can either include its own DSP solution, like TheTradeDesk, or use external platforms, like Cappture. In the narrowest sense, Trading Desk is an agency superstructure on an RTB infrastructure, which interacts through an API with one or several DSPs.

If you look at a TD in terms of functions, then you can distinguish several basic modules:


Campaign management includes managing Placements, Creatives, setting up all possible targets, managing a budget breakdown by channel and much more. However, you must understand that placement parameters vary greatly depending on the channel. A target set can differ greatly from system to system, but usually includes geography, days of the week and time of day, black and white lists of sites, social demographic, interests, etc.  If the DSP supports retargeting, this support transfers to the TD level.

The post-click module includes generating post-click pixels, and a real-time server component tracks events on the pages of an advertiser’s site, gathers information in a database and generates corresponding reports.

The statics block includes reporting on separate channels, such as displays, transfers, and CTR in various sections. Free reporting is also important, which includes post-click CPA and CPO data in addition to displays and clicks.

The administration panel includes standard management functions on users, advertisers, access rights, etc.

This outlines the basic Trading Desk functions for separate agencies.

This leads us to the question: if we place one-time campaigns on several media channels, can we limit the aggregate frequency of contacts on all channels at one time? Sadly, at the moment, this is practically impossible due to technical restrictions, even though this would of course be an excellent feature which would raise an ATD’s attractiveness in the eyes of the advertisers.

Another natural question is why develop Trading Desk under a concrete agency if you can use prepared solutions (several of which we describe in future posts).  In our experience, the reason is either the absence of a specific function which is important for a given agency, or the absence of specific channels in the set of available options.  On rare occasions, the cost for using leased systems is the deciding factor.

Going back to the question we started with, regarding the costs of development, it is defined by the number of functions and, first and foremost, the number and complexity of integrating with previous systems, interface customization, and load requirements.

Usually, we won’t give figures until we reach an agreement with the client of at least a minimal Vision system.  However, starting at 1 million rubles or 30.000 USD can already lead to quite a meaningful conversation.  And yes, I’m talking about developing a “complete Agency Trading Desk” 🙂