Tag-management systems (TMS) are ripe for acquisition.
Enterprise tech firms with data-management platforms (DMPs) have commonly incorporated them into their stacks, either by building their own or, like Adobe, by buying a start-up shop.
But last week’s acquisition of TagMan by rival firm Ensighten was unusual in that it was a tag-management firm acquiring another tag-management firm. Was this simply a case of one company taking a competitor off the market?
Wolfgang Allisat, who served as TagMan’s global chief revenue officer until Monday, when he assumed the title of SVP international at Ensighten, compares the strategy to that of Web analytics provider Omniture (before it was eventually acquired by Adobe).
“We acquired competitors to get market reach and expand internationally,” said Allisat, an Omniture alum. “We take the best of multiple solutions and create the No. 1 market leader by far in the space, with the most resources and people across Europe and the US now.”
Combined, he added, Ensighten and TagMan are well-funded. Ensighten, he said, had raised $40 million from venture capitalists; TagMan raised $15 million over its lifetime.
“So together, we’ve raised more money than competitors and can execute on our vision to make marketing very agile,” Allisat said. He spoke with AdExchanger about what’s in store for both companies and whether Ensighten is itself a DMP.
AdExchanger: How does TagMan complement Ensighten and vice versa?
WOLFGANG ALLISAT: TagMan invested heavily in attribution and can offer Ensighten full attribution marketing, capturing of all ad views and campaigns across channels. Ensighten has always been strong in the mobile tracking side, mobile tag-management side and cross-device tracking. So the core tag-management functionality is very similar, but both sides have clever ways of doing things.
What’s the vision for TagMan and Ensighten down the line? Will you have a consolidated offering?
For now, for both companies, it’s business as usual. But if you look 12 to 18 months ahead, it makes sense to take the best out of both solutions and merge it into one platform. But we’re not asking our customers to change platforms. We have the two organizations supporting them fully. We’re keeping it at two solutions for now.
Will there be redundancies in staffing?
In general, everywhere where we didn’t have overlap, there’s been no change. But certainly, we don’t need two CFOs or two CEOs, and those positions have been right-sized.
How will branding work out? Will TagMan be folded under the Ensighten name?
The brand that will survive long term will be Ensighten. TagMan will be a subsidiary of Ensighten. It will remain a brand, and it describes the core of our business quite well. So the brand will survive [for now].
I understand this will help Ensighten expand internationally. TagMan is strong in Europe, right?
And Ensighten is strong in the US. In one scoop, we have a full-blown European organization that’s 10 times the size of our closest competitor.
Who are your closest competitors?
The ponies in the running from a strategic aspect are Adobe, which captures the whole data and platform play. And there are point solutions like BrightTag.
Speaking of Adobe, we’re at the Summit right now. What is Ensighten hoping to accomplish here?
We’re doing a little guerrilla marketing because we know there are 5,000 leads at the Summit. So we’re meeting a lot of clients. We have a box in the [Utah Jazz vs. Detroit Pistons] basketball game tonight. We have dinners every night. It’s a little bit of a mini summit for us.
Adobe obviously has its own tag-management solution through the Satellite acquisition. How do you message against them?
Adobe is a closed solution. We’re allowing our customers to have Web analytics and best-of-breed technology and we can grab that and put that in, say, Adobe Test & Target or Monetate. We allow our CMOs to choose best of breed. We make it easier to implement solutions and make the data compatible between them. People don’t have to have a fear that they’re buying four different headaches; they’re buying four of the best proven solutions. We take care of all the data mining and aspects in between.
Do you partner with Adobe or is your relationship with them strictly competitive?
We can implement all their solutions. Ensighten has historically built up great expertise in all Adobe products. Some of the leadership and people who work in Ensighten today were leaders at Stratigent, a consultancy that provided strategic expertise in Omniture installation and usage. A lot of that knowledge we applied in our tag-management solution where we now understand how to make it easier to implement. We know Adobe products very well and have a lot of ex-Omniture employees.
What's the relationship between Web analytics and tag management?
Five or 10 years ago, Web analytics was the single holder of truth in a company. Now that has shifted over to TMS. That’s why everyone is trying to get in on that space. People realize that shift has gone away from Web analytics into tagging and managing the wealth of data that comes from tags, and cleaning up their act. Over the years, people have tried different tech solutions, and there are still old tags on those pages. People just stuff data into tags, they’re hemorrhaging data to third parties they don’t know about.
How did that trust go from Web analytics to tag management?
Web analytics at some point started off being the first tag that was consistently deployed across the entire site. All of the sudden, companies had a Web analytics tag on every page. This was the only version of the truth because they could then see across the whole site.
Then came the ad servers: “Oh, I served 1 million ads and 400,000 people clicked on it. Let me add a tag on your product page, landing page, confirmation page, so I can track the percent that clicked through and how many converted to show you the value of our ad server.”
Then came the multivariate testing people like Monetate or Adobe Test & Target. “We need to test these different places and messages. Can you add our tag?”
Suddenly a company had five to 50 technologies each wanting their own tag on a site, each sending a report on how well they’re supporting their clients. Affiliates added a tag on the confirmation page, all claiming success, though some only had the last click, some came in the middle. But suddenly, all the affiliates someone used were getting a tag fired.
So at the end of every month, you have these affiliate wars over credit. So it became quite a jungle of tags and data and people claiming to be performing at a higher level than they really were. Tag management took over the business processes and regulations.
So it’s like someone moderating a crowd of people shouting at you.
Of course. You [the site owner] now control the data. You own your own first-party data through a TMS. DoubleClick will very cleverly resell your own data back to you, saying, “Well, we’ve got all this impression and ad view data and wouldn’t you like a data feed? For $20,000 a month we can feed it into your system.” But we already have that data. We’re tracking every conversion by every channel. That’s first-party data our customers own and we can send it to them to store in their own data warehouse.
In a few years, will all the standalone TMS vendors be acquired?
I think there will be one or two that will go IPO and follow the roots of an Omniture. I think Ensighten is well-placed and well-funded to head in that direction. The others will run out of money in the next 18 months and be acquired. The comparison to the Web analytics market is uncanny, down to the employees in the tag-management space. I’d say 30% were in Web analytics. With Web analytics, consolidation happened, a clear leader emerged and two went IPO. The two that went IPO merged into Omniture and got acquired by Adobe. I see a similar trend happening in this space. To tie the data in when you have multiple products and platforms is so much easier through a TMS. So a TMS can be that data-management platform.
Is Ensighten a DMP?
There are elements of a DMP. At TagMan, we called it a Marketing Data Platform. How do you define a DMP?
A platform that pulls in first- and third-party data and pumps it out to the right sources.
If you define it that generically, then we are a DMP. Within Ensighten, we already have a solution that captures first- and third-party data and distributes it in real time across a platform. Now add cookies to that and you can do profile matching and lookalikes.
Was that definition too broad? In your opinion, is Ensighten a DMP?
Let me phrase this carefully so I don’t tread on anybody’s toes. We have the capabilities and the technology to act as a DMP. But because we’re a data consolidator, we can also grab data from outside DMPs and merge them within our customers’ portfolios. Do we want to become the next BlueKai? No, that’s not the way we’ll go. But we could do that.
How does your philosophy differ from a company like BlueKai?
The biggest difference is we are the data and technology arm of our customers. We want to make it easy for our customers to manage the technologies they want to deploy. The difference is BlueKai and others like it were more of a data aggregator. They enriched and resold the data. We’re more customer-centric, working for our enterprise customers, rather than being a cookie jar for the Internet, where you could buy the lollipops you like.
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