The Trade Desk’s First Chief Trust Officer on Providing Assurance in an Era of Uncertainty  

'We all agree that grading your own homework isn’t fair'

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The Trade Desk wants to engender trust in an era of seismic changes in the media-buying sector. TheTradeDesk, Getty Images
Headshot of Ronan Shields

The Trade Desk has appointed Sandeep Swadia as its first evp, chief data and trust officer with his appointment coming at a time of massive flux—and some would say distrust—in the digital advertising ecosystem.

Swadia, who was formerly CEO of White Ops during its 3ve takedown late last year, will be based out of New York City where he will work with clients, industry partners and standards groups to promote growth.

In a statement promoting his appointment, Jeff Green, The Trade Desk CEO, described Swadia’s role as “vital.”

“We are thrilled to add Sandeep’s unique experience in the data and trust components of digital media to our executive leadership team as we continue our rapid growth,” he added.

The ad-tech company is widely viewed as the poster child for publicly traded companies in the sector with the demand-side platform previously forecasting revenues of more than $650 million for 2019, representing a rise of 37% year over year.

The rollout of The Trade Desk’s Unified ID Solution, which was first unveiled last year, will (likely) play a key part in driving this growth. Albeit the launch of the identifier, which the ad-tech outfit is billing as an alternative to targeting audiences at scale outside of the industry’s walled gardens, has not been without its detractors.

Earlier this year, a presentation first given by The Trade Desk at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity was leaked to Adweek, with the presentation document—which contained phrases such as “The Sell Side Players of the Future All Look Like This”—leading to some disquiet.

Sources have alleged that the proposal, including its “commitment to cut off tier 2/3/4 DSPs by end of year,” would effectively force The Trade Desk’s Unified ID upon both sell-side platforms and smaller DSP rivals.

As one source speaking on condition of anonymity put it, “Can anyone be a player and the ref at the same time?” while emphasizing the importance of a “neutral ID” that isn’t operated by an outfit that trades in media—The Trade Desk is arguably the largest DSP outside of Google.

In an interview with Adweek, Swadia said, “I think that we all agree that grading your own homework isn’t fair in our industry … one of the reasons that I came to work at TTD was seeing how we worked together to address fraud; the ID initiative is in the same vein … that’s one area that I’ll definitely be focusing on.”

Per Swadia, boosting the current levels of trust will help the online ad industry become a trillion-dollar industry within several years. Although several buy-side sources noted that The Trade Desk’s comparatively high take rates, i.e. the fees it charges on each transaction, may require further explanation if trust is to continue.

Swadia, speaking to Adweek during his first day on the job earlier this week, said, “We want to make sure that among our clients (marketers and agencies) they have line of sight through the entire transaction, so that’s the kind of transparency we want to work on, as that’s what fosters trust in the end.”

Amid increasingly straitened margins, the digital advertising ecosystem is also experiencing a disruption. Multiple sources also noted how each tier of the industry finds itself faced with the prospect of disintermediation—a phenomenon that also operates in tandem with the ever-increasing trend toward supply-path optimization. For instance, many media agencies are now seeking direct relationships with supply-side platforms, in an echo of the “client-direct” approach many DSPs adopted in the nascent phase of programmatic advertising.

Similarly, as brands increasingly look to take operations in-house, just how can The Trade Desk facilitate such moves by ad land’s biggest spenders while not alienating their traditional client base of media agencies?

@ronan_shields Ronan Shields is a programmatic reporter at Adweek, focusing on ad-tech.