Tag Management: Keeping Clients’ Sites Elite

As a digital marketer in this day and age, one of the most exciting aspects of this industry is that our responsibilities span beyond the realm of advertising and media management, spilling into the spheres of analytics, data, and technology.  The performance buys that are the core of many a media plan (the ones that drive the best return on ad spend or highest volume of conversions) most likely would not happen (nor would a network or vendor run a campaign) without tagging our clients’ sites.  3rd party ad tags or “piggybacks” play an integral role –whether it’s for conversion optimization purposes, retargeting or dynamic creative (to name a few).  To take it to the next level, DoubleClick and other tracking or container solutions have given us the ability to design pretty sophisticated rules on how and when tags fire on our clients’ sites, ultimately helping our media strategies evolve to support the more complicated business needs of our clients.  This allows us to isolate high value users or repeat customers based on status, or specifically retarget to users who’ve hit the site only if they were last on say, Trip Advisor and they hadn’t been to the site within a month and have not received emails from your client.

Because we can cookie, track, segment and programmatically optimize, tagging comes with the job, but it’s a responsibility that cannot be taken lightly.  I was recently at a conference where the speakers were emphasizing the concept of the butterfly effect –how the perceivably miniscule motion of a butterfly flapping its wings could result in a monumental event, whether good or bad.  It’s one of those universally applicable notions, but in the context of tagging, the repercussions could range from hundreds of thousands of media savings in targeting just those high potential users to potentially slowing down the checkout process during peak conversion time aggravating 500 customers and losing $100,000 in revenue (not to mention the resources involved in figuring out which tag caused it and how it’s never going to happen again).  When something like this happens, nine out of ten times, the reason is that the network at fault was making secondary calls to another server to gain access to additional inventory sources, and it was actually the secondary tag that was to blame.  As much as you want to hold that vendor accountable, the client and their IT team will ultimately, and pretty rightfully, hold the agency accountable for opening up that wormhole in the first place.  So how do we better prevent and control the ugly second scenario?  The answer is by employing a tag management solution.

To illustrate how tag management works, I’ve created a fun little analogy (or at least I’d like to consider it this way).   Think about the client’s .com as the most elite VIP club out there.  Needless to say, the club owner would be Client X, the club manager would be Client X’s IT team, and they’ve hired a party planner and PR crew (in this case the agency) to manage their events and the guest list.  To keep things exclusive, the party planning team handpicks the guest list every single night.  You have to be on the list to enter, but the current bouncer is a rookie, and during an A-List event, he doesn’t ID patrons before entering, disregards the guest list, and the next morning TMZ reports that Justin Bieber was mauled by a dozen pre-teen fanatics.  This could have been avoided with proper tag management.

Fast-forward a month later.  The party planners and the club manager put placing the best front door security team as top priority.  They hire an ex-CIA agent to man the front door.  He has the foresight and instinct to separate the good from the bad seeds.  Not only does he ensure that invite-only patrons come in, but rowdy and overly intoxicated persons are not permitted to enter, and high risk people are escorted out at the first sign of trouble.  In addition, connected patrons (friends of the A-Listers and even friends of friends) are not permitted to enter without first being screened by the club managers and party planners.   In this scenario, you can say that the proper tag management was in place.

Why Tag Management is Needed?

  • Numerous 3rd party vendor tags in effect
  • Site Crashes, Security Warnings, Slow Loading Pages  – due to any given “bad” tag or a multitude of unwanted secondary and tertiary tags  being calledClean and controlled process of 3rd party tag implementation
  • Streamlined tag firing and pixel logic
  • Data capture

Features to look for when considering tag management:

  • Asynchronous tag load of 3rd party data tags (for data collection purposes)
  • Streamlined site tagging – hierarchal tagging from a Category to subcategory page level
  • Logic-based data capture/tag fires
  • Localized Latency management – automatic tag load termination based on client-set time threshold + re-activation based on server stabilization
  • 24-hr support
  • User-friendly interface – easy to use for both Client Tech and Agency Ops teams

Agencies need to work closely with their client’s tech team and their ad ops team to select the right fit for the client.  Not all solutions are built alike with some prioritizing tagging and segmentation logic (Google Tag Manager) vs. latency and kill-switch technology (TagMan, Ensighten, Media Geeks, Satellite, BrightTag, Tealium).  Ultimately, it’s up to agencies and their clients to identify which benefits are needed from a solution to create accountability and keep the site and marketing programs operating optimally.

IgnitionOne has worked with a variety of clients spanning all verticals (travel, retail, entertainment, finance) to improve tagging strategies and employ and evolve processes to monitor tags in effect as well as minimize and prevent complications from 3rd party tags.  Our team is constantly surveying the tag management landscape to identify and recommend best of breed solutions that best address individual client’s needs.

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