Do advertisers need agencies anymore? As programmatic ad buying platforms have risen up and as many are now switching to a self-service online model that allows advertisers to control their own campaigns, many in the industry are wondering: is the agency about to be disintermediated?

But, while brands are certainly now putting a hand on the tiller of their ad-tech, that doesn’t mean they no longer need an agency to pilot the ship.

That is according to one trading platform executive watching brands trying to navigate the new-look waters of advertising.

“Oftentimes, in the media, you hear it’s this black-and-white decision of marketers either taking things in-house or working directly with an agency, and those are (said to be) the only two paths,” says The Trade Desk chief client officer Brian Stempeck in this video interview with Beet.TV.

“What we’re seeing is agencies are going for a middle path, where they’re saying, ‘I want to have a technology license with a DSP, I want to get closer to the DSP and know what’s going on if I’m spending $50 million a year in programmatic. But I don’t necessarily want to take that in-house, I want to take that to my agency to push the buttons on the campaigns, to optimise, to give me insights.’

One common idea in ad-tech is that tech platforms are actually happy to cut agencies out of the relationship with brands, so that they can gain higher-value contracts and work directly.

But The Trade Desk’s Stempeck says going all the way wouldn’t necessarily serve advertisers best, thanks to all the complexity that programmatic actually brings.

“Because programmatic is now in every channel … there’s a lot to take on,” he adds. “So (advertisers are saying) ‘I don’t necessarily want to take this in-house … I want to pay more attention, I want to get closer to the technology and we think that’s a good thing.’