BrightTag Data Management Platform Addressing Consumer, Advertisers And Publishers Says CEO Sands

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BrightTagMike Sands is President and CEO of BrightTag, a data management platform company.

AdExchanger.com: What problem is BrightTag solving?

Website owners have lost control of the data on their site. They increasingly don't know what data is being collected, what it is being used for or if third parties are in compliance with privacy regulations. The Wall Street Journal and others have recently written about this and it has become a real pain point for website owners. We solve these problems.

BrightTag gives site owners control over the data collected from their sites, protects them from unintended data access, and instantly connects them with services and partners that make their data actionable. We are delivering an independent and holistic data rights management platform that will enable site owners to work with any marketing partner they want in minutes, secure in the knowledge that their data is safe.

Who is the target market today? Where are you seeing particular strengths in your client base today?

E-commerce sites have been wholly receptive to our technology. Data is the lifeblood of their business, and they understand that our technology helps them work with hundreds of partners more seamlessly than ever before. We are also doing very promising early work in Travel, CPG, Automotive, Online Education and Telecom. And, in the wake of the WSJ article, several major content publishers have contacted us to examine our solution.

All of the website owners we are working with have hundreds -- and even thousands -- of tracking tags on their sites as a natural course of conducting their business. These tags represent real partnerships, made stronger through the implementation of our technology. For those situations where data is being pulled from a site without the site owner’s knowledge, our technology helps to plug the leak. Either way, the site owner and their current and future partners both win.

How do you differentiate from TagMan or others you consider in your competitive set?

A number of service providers – ad servers, analytics packages and attribution management tools to name a few – have created “tag containers” as a side feature of their core product. Many of our clients have tried using these tag containers, only to conclude that they don’t tackle the real problem. From a website’s perspective, the way data is collected and distributed is fundamentally broken. We fix this by giving site owners a better way to share data, including the transparency and control that is needed to build strong relationships with service providers. As a neutral third party, we also work with the entire ecosystem of service providers, enabling them to connect more easily with their clients and stay focused on their core businesses of making data actionable.

Many of the companies that are often described as “competitors” we see as partners. Some have even told us they would like to discontinue their “tag container” solutions so they can work with us to help create one standard for the industry to connect websites and service providers. Our approach is to focus on reducing friction between seller and buyer – which we expect will help grow our industry.

Through our simple interface – literally in seconds - site owners, agencies and service providers can decide on a campaign-by-campaign basis how best to implement, collect and share data. We think that these are key differentiators, and getting this deeper functionality right is a big reason why we’ve been so quiet up until now. But, we’ve got it, and we’ve got big users who are realizing benefits from it now.

How do you anticipate the business of tags playing out in the future? Does it get more complicated or consolidate in the future?

We believe the “business of tagging” will be made a lot simpler in the next few months as more people work with our technology. Every person we talk to in our industry acknowledges the pain. Buyers, sellers, and site owners - all talk about how difficult it is to transact business because of the friction referenced earlier. If we don’t make it easier, our industry simply won’t grow the way we all want it to grow. We envision a day very soon where our customers can turn on a service provider during the sales meeting without ever talking to IT. Imagine a day when marketing and IT live in harmony. That is our vision.

Please discuss the company's funding. And, is it profitable?

Our investors include the Pritzker Family, Tomorrow Ventures, Epic Ventures, and I2A. In regards to profitability, what we can say is that our list of clients and our pipeline are pointing in the right direction.

How does the services and technology that BrightTag provides benefit the consumer?

BrightTag technology benefits the consumer by reducing site latency. Today, when a user accesses their morning news online or makes an airline reservation or buys something from their favorite e-tailer, they experience a lag time that they would not have experienced a year or two ago. This is due to the myriad of tags and server calls being made from every browser visit on these sites. All these profiles being built occupy small bits of bandwidth, and these small bits add up to a fast-worsening user experience across the web. Our technology stops this decline dead in its tracks, and provides a triangle of benefit to consumers, sellers, and buyers – who won’t have to worry about data leakage, data management or consumer privacy anymore.

What is the Chicago start-up scene like? What are some key benefits of being in the Chicago area?

Our office is a few blocks away from Starcom, one of the largest media buyers in the world. In fact, just among digital buyers, roughly 40% of all media spend comes from Chicago. So, while people know about Groupon, 37Signals, and some of the other startups here that target the consumer or retail sectors, the case could be made that Chicago is truly the center of the interactive advertising economy. I helped to found and build Orbitz as its CMO and COO and collectively our founders come from; Avenue A, Atlas, Right Media and Google. And we all live in Chicago.  :-)

Is BrightTag a solution needed across marketing channels beyond online display? Which ones? Or what are the plans here?

Yes, absolutely. Every online marketing channel – display, search, video, social, affiliate, email – comes with data collection overhead. Our solution addresses this head on, and we’re not stopping there. Ad hoc tagging quite simply doesn’t work in emerging channels, so we are integrating with mobile, IPTV and digital out-of-home platform and service providers to help make unified data a reality.

A year from now, what milestones would you like BrightTag to have achieved?

A year from now we would like to have a number of well-known website owners and marketers using our technology who are committed to making the online advertising ecosystem a better and more productive space for all parties. If we can achieve this, then we will have improved the way that interactive media operates and helped grow the digital media category.

Additionally, if we achieve our goals, we will have made a discernable difference in the overall web user experience and brought more control and protection to both the buy side and sell side, as well as to consumers. That’s what we mean by the triangle of benefit – and we’re serious about making that happen fast.

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