Jon Baron is Co-Founder and General Manager of TagMan.
AdExchanger.com: What challenge is Tag Man solving for advertisers? How do you help publishers?
JB: TagMan addresses a challenge facing all businesses involved in digital media.
At all levels of the digital media business (creative through to publisher placement through to buying/selling) there is a transition from 'talking' about data-driven services – to actually doing it.
The tangle of platforms offering buzz-services such as behavioral, bidding, re-targeting, user insight, content manipulation, data-point creative etc – all have their own 'special sauce' and all need to be tested/rolled out before a decision can be made on their effectiveness.
The challenge(s) are that each service requires their own 'serving and tracking tags' to be inserted across publisher and client sites alike; often a time consuming, costly and political exercise in itself. Throw in other concerns such as data-ownership, transparency and contractual obligations putting extra stress on an already complex issue. The final straw – is the recent research that demonstrates a proven 'latency' on page load times that each tag can cause. This can mean a loss in sales, delivery or tracking.
Specifically for the "exchange" model, it's the ability to do all your pixel tagging and data collection from a single piece of code. TagMan enables advertisers (and agencies) to own cookie-level data and port it between exchanges using a global cookie ID. That provides a simple way to harvest and act upon user's behavioral data – by building rules to automatically fire re-targeting and behavioural targeting pixels; ideal for exchange buying.
For publishers, firstly, and very simply, TagMan allows them to manage 3rd party tags quickly and cheaply in our drag and drop web-based interface. This means that their technology teams are liberated from the marketing needs. It also means that any 3rd party 'data collection deals' can be managed instantly by operations, ensuring complete control of 'where and how' data collection tags are placed. On the flipside, agencies/clients who use TagMan, makes it easy to deploy a publisher's own tag.
Example: Publishers often have the job of demonstrating why their premium inventory is more valuable than liquidated, whole-sale networks. TagMan helps demonstrate the effect that premium display inventory has on the path to consumer action. By having a single view of the customer across all channels and using TagMan attribution methodology, it's simple to show the direct influence quality publishers deliver to consumer action. Today, big publisher groups are looking to use TagMan to differentiate their inventory from this commoditized space whilst also becoming a system on which to easily centralize the many differing legacy systems that are inherited when acquiring a company.
What is your sense of the UK online ad market versus the U.S.? Any key differences?
We work in both (half our revenues are in the US) and the differences are most clearly to do with scale. The scale of campaigns in the US dwarfs that in the UK, which is why US-owned businesses dominate the sector - they have the scale to invest and suffer setbacks. In terms of sophistication, there's not much in it except to say that advances in both markets are focused in different areas. In the US, we're finding much quicker acceptance of TagMan's strategic importance - for example, how it can help agencies harvest data and thus win back their competitive edge as digital threatens to disintermediate them. In the UK, disciplines such as search and affiliates have reached very sophisticated levels, which is why issues like de-duplication are the most common reason to come looking for us. De-duplication is a buzz term used by many, but comes as a standard benefit with TagMan, which covers the complete path to conversion (including your natural search) – and you don't have to pay a hefty ad-serving contract to access the service.
How do you differentiate and compete with other attribution products in the marketplace such as Atlas Engagement Mapping?
In practical terms, you get complete control and ownership view of your data and choose what GooMicroYoo get to see, own and use. TagMan means you can track all of the ad-serve elements plus natural search, receive raw data feeds, track unlimited events in the path to conversion, identify keywords used in PPC and natural searches, and lots more. Most importantly, it means you can fire pixels conditionally based on all or any of that information.
More broadly, our key difference against all ad-server owned container tags, is that we fix the cause not the symptom. So many problems that have emerged as online marketing has become more complex have their root in campaign tracking and the tags that do it. We are the agnostic solution for organizing all the tags that now sit on clients' pages (including Atlas, DoubleClick, Google Analytics, Omniture and the rest) into a single tag and interface and showing the complete associated connections between all of them. So, while all those technologies are brilliant at what they do, they also cause their own questions and concerns. If you really want to track user engagement - and attribute effectively - you need everything that your ad server, web analytics system and search tracking technologies can tell you in one, independent system – that will not take the data with them should you cancel your contract. That is what TagMan is for.
Are media agencies in the UK prepared for the evolution toward a digital future? If you were running a media agency today, what steps would you be taking to ensure a profitable future?
It's happening. Media agencies' issue is not that they don't understand digital but that their business model (commission on media buying) doesn't stack up when ad space is virtually infinite. The strengths that they need to build and charge for are their understanding of users, how advertising influences them, and, therefore, what brands can do in 'media' to grow their businesses. The first step would be to get a world class CTO on the board. Second, buy or build technology that reclaims control of data from the media owners and ad servers (yes, that means things like TagMan). Third, hire lots of great analysts to derive actionable insight from all that great data.
Digital completely changes the large media agency proposition so that they have to compete on what they know (data) rather than rates achieved through buying power. Smaller, specialist agencies like The Exchange Lab (http://www.theexchangelab.com/) and Infectious Digital (http://www.infectiousdigital.com/) are doing a great job in this area in the UK as are US agencies such as Varick Media (http://www.varickmm.com/). TagMan provides the ability for all agencies to take a step towards a data-driven business.
How did TagMan begin? Any future product lines you can share - such as video?
TagMan founder Paul Cook's previous business, Redeye, had been doing engagement mapping/attribution for years within its media mix product. For his next project, Paul started an ad server, Positive Feedback, with incredibly advanced reporting. But, alongside this, he'd long seen the problems that the proliferation of tracking tags, as well as the technology behind them, was causing (and would cause) the sector. So TagMan was conceived as an informative content management system for tags.
The next release of TagMan will feature game-changing features, not limited to: full attribution management (so you can assign a proportion of sales commission to each channel), the ability to tell whether a display ad was actually viewed (or remained under the fold, for example) and a suite of features that assist businesses that require "Real Time" features such as real-time datafeeds, which are currently delivered nightly.
What is your view on ad exchanges? Good for TagMan?
Symbiotic to our business. Even basic targeting, like re-messaging, can easily improve results by 10 times so ad exchanges will allow advertisers to improve ROI from display. CPMs will/have gone down initially, they'll rise in the medium term as the ROI rises. TagMan helps advertisers and agencies get better value out of the exchanges by allowing them to collect crucial data on users and re-target them when they're exposed to exchange-bought inventory. So, yes, we love them.
Also, exchanges emphasize the point about how the large media agency proposition has to change from being about their buying power to their ability to harvest and act upon user data.
In your opinion, relative to the size of the market, why are there so many ad networks in the online ad space in the UK? Are publishers more willing to sell their inventory through ad networks, for example?
On one side, publishers in the UK have probably been a little slower to understand the way their content strategy needed to change to deliver ad inventory agencies were willing to pay for - hence they have always had lots of inventory spare to drop into the networks. And, second, the barriers to entry are lower in the UK, allowing lots of entrepreneurial folk to launch 'networks' quickly and make a living out of it. The fact that Right Media, initially, only sold to ad networks has also probably got something to do with it. But, if you really look at the numbers, as in the USA – there are only a handful of serious networks that have exclusive relationships.
Are there any tags that your system cannot handle - or are prohibited to handle due to other companies' contractual requirements?
We have yet to find a tag that does not plug-in seamlessly; technically or contractually. The ability to place unique 'conditions' on the tags also means you can have complete control on who, where, what and how long – a tag gets placed.
In regards to your case study on the duplication of payment to affiliates by advertisers, how is Tag Man helping "de-dup" the process?
This study (available on our site here) was crucial. The entire industry knew duplication, where more than one channel claims the same sale and thus has to be paid commission, was a major problem but, in many ways, it was a state secret. We were delighted that so many people took part and were so frank with their responses. In essence, we found that - on average - 13% of all CPA commission payments were thought to be duplicated. For major e-commerce advertisers like Thomas Cook, we've found duplication rates of 20%-30%. TagMan solves the problem simply by housing the tags that track which channel delivered a conversion in one place - that way you can see exactly who delivered what click (or view) and who, therefore, should get the commission. It of course raises all kinds of complex questions over who should be attributed commission for a sale but TagMan will show you all the ads any user has been exposed to and the actions they took across natural and paid campaigns allowing advertisers to make an informed judgment.