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Econsultancy: Please describe your job: What do you do? 

Carl Millikin: I’m the Trading Director for the UK and France at The Trade Desk, running a team of nine traders. 

At The Trade Desk, each of our agency clients is set up with an account manager, a business development specialist, and a trader. It’s the traders’ job to strategically plan and optimise campaigns, and provide the reporting and insight that helps clients learn from and improve their campaigns.  

The trading team play an important role in helping our clients understand both our platform and wider technological developments, and get the best results for the brands they work with. 

My job is to oversee that part of the business, acting as a guide for the traders. I’m also constantly listening and responding to our clients’ feedback, to make sure that our platform evolves to align with their needs. If they require a different approach to a feature or product, we’ll make it happen.

E: Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?

CM: I sit within the EMEA leadership team, but I’m physically located in our London office – reporting to the Director of Trading for the East Coast of the US & EMEA. We have around 90 traders in the trading department, who are based across 20 offices globally.

E: What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?

CM: Traditionally, being a good trader was all about being analytical and numbers-focused – I came from a financial background myself. Being analytical still forms the backbone of the role of a trader, but it’s not all that’s important. The shift in trading responsibilities means that a trader now needs to not only pull the gems of insight from large, often complex amounts of data, but also be able to present this to clients in an engaging and informative way that will help their campaign objectives. 

No longer hidden away, our traders are in our clients’ offices multiple times during the week, presenting, training and building lasting relationships with our clients. They’re like secret salesmen – highly technical analysts that use their knowledge and insight to improve clients’ campaign performance and meet brands objectives.

Communication with clients and our internal teams is a huge part of the role. Being able to communicate effectively is a real advantage in order to be successful as a trader. 

E: Tell us about a typical working day… 

CM: There’s no such thing as a typical day if you’re working in media! The first thing I’ll always do is check the tools we use to track the pacing, delivery and performance of all our accounts and make sure nothing is falling down. I also check in with each of the traders in case there’s anything we need to deal with. 

We have internal meetings for each individual client every week, where the relevant account managers, traders and business development specialists get together. We’ll talk through how campaigns are performing, what we’re planning for the client, and where there are opportunities for training and development to help them take full advantage of our platform. 

We also have product meetings – both client-specific and about the global positioning of our products. I run the monthly EMEA product meeting, where we build our region’s collective view on how we should be developing the platform, then try to push these changes through during our global product meeting, later in the month. 

E: What do you love about your job? What sucks?

CM: What I love most is the variety. That’s why I’ve always loved ad tech – no two days are ever the same. I also love my job because of the people I work with. I have total faith in my team, who are all incredibly smart people – and, because they require so little guidance, it frees up my time to affect more business change. 

We’re incredibly fortunate at the Trade Desk to have a fantastic team of highly skilled engineers, constantly coming up with innovative ideas to develop new products and enhance our platform. If I had one wish, it would be to be have an even greater number of engineers to enable us to bring to life every one of the big ideas we have.  

The only thing that actually sucks, though, is being based in Farringdon. I have to take two different tubes on my commute to work!

E: What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?

CM: My main goal is to build the best demand side platform in the market. Clients are a great barometer for this. We know that external traders use multiple DSPs, so if they start favouring and spending more with The Trade Desk, we know that the technology or functionality we’re using is the best for them, and we can then develop this further. We have a really strong relationship with our clients, and their feedback forms a core part of our product. 

E: What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?

CM: I like to use the data visualisation tool, Tableau. It’s a really easy way of understanding what the numbers mean, and tracking how we’re doing and where we’re at with our clients. Our own media buying platform is pretty essential, too! 

Other great tools to get the job done include Jira, which tracks everything product related, and Slack and Zoom, which let us communicate across the globe and really sync our teams. Without these I’d be pretty lost.


Image via Tableau

E: How did you get into programmatic, and where might you go from here?

CM: I started my media career in publishing, working for companies like MySpace and The Telegraph. Then I moved to Videology where I focused on the demand side, specifically around performance and delivery, followed by another DSP where I headed up platform operations for RadiumOne. 

I became interested in the bidding side of things, and almost fell into programmatic from there. Now I would never leave adtech and programmatic – I love how it works, how you can always come up with different strategies and tactics, and how it’s constantly evolving. One day in the distant future I’d like to run my own company – something to do with trading, no doubt.  

E: Which brands do you think are using programmatic well?

CM: There’s a lot that brands can learn from the retail and FMCG industry when it comes to programmatic. Retail brands tend to use more aspects of programmatic strategy and more channel diversification – as well as using various companies to understand footfall, for example.  

E: Do you have any advice for people who want to work in programmatic?

CM: Be curious. Read widely to stay up to date with industry news, and go to as many events as possible to hear what people are thinking. Become a sponge. Take advantage of all the training tools and education out there – whether that’s content freely available online or specially designed programmes from tech providers or partners. And take an interest in what’s happening while you’re surfing the net – try to piece the puzzle together to understand why you’re being targeted in the way that you are, and you’ll start to understand programmatic a lot more.