The Trade Desk Focuses on People, Not Programmatic in Latest Campaign

The ad-tech company is positioning itself as an alternative to Facebook, Google and Amazon

trade desk print campaign
The campaign also unveiled a new slogan for The Trade Desk: "Media for humankind." Provided

After topping $160 million in second-quarter revenue with a total market cap of $12.2 billion, The Trade Desk is one of the most profitable ad-tech companies around. Now, it’s letting media buyers know it has heart, too.

This week—which is also Advertising Week in New York City—will see The Trade Desk’s second-ever branded campaign rolled out across social media, digital billboards and trade publications, targeting executives from all sides of the ad-tech supply chain. The campaign positions the ad-tech behemoth as a more transparent, user-focused alternative to walled gardens that have recently faced the ire of consumers and lawmakers alike for their less-than-collaborative practices.

“I hate to call it a marketing campaign— it’s really about the brand in its purest form,” said Trade Desk CMO Susan Vobejda. “It’s the company’s strategy—and the role we want to play for people—articulated.”

It’s the reason that people—not technology—are the centerpiece of the campaign, Vobejda added. Working with creative agency BBH and portrait photographer Martin Schoeller, who’s most recently made waves photographing Colin Kaepernick for Nike’s recent campaign, Vobejda settled on a concept depicting various internet users across 12 ads.

Each ad also includes a short paragraph about one of The Trade Desk’s pillars—independence, transparency, wide reach and objectivity—along with a new slogan: “Media for humankind.”

The “humankind” in that slogan, per Vobejda, speaks to The Trade Desk’s proprietary demand-side platform, which has been a place for publishers to share ideas, content and quality journalism since its inception roughly a decade ago.

It’s also a not-so-subtle dig against the walled gardens. Recent estimates have seen Facebook, Google and Amazon set to scoop up roughly 63 cents of every marketing dollar by 2020, and will also see that spend sequestered in a series of increasingly clandestine black boxes that leave some marketers frustrated about the state of their spend.

With this campaign, per Vobejda, the Trade Desk is positioning itself as the anti-walled garden.

“The idea of a few companies controlling what people see—and what gets published—is a scary thought for many,” she said. “So we really wanted to position ourselves as an advocate for the open internet, as an advocate for journalism and an advocate for the free exchange of ideas.”

@swodinsky Shoshana Wodinsky is Adweek's platforms reporter, where she covers the financial and societal impacts of major social networks. She was previously a tech reporter for The Verge and NBC News.