Gartner calls the data management platform (DMP) the ‘soul of modern marketing’, but many marketers have yet to decipher the alphabet soup that feeds into today’s marketing technology stack.
It can clearly be confusing as one of the top questions I hear from customers, prospects and even partners is around the difference and/or relationship between DMPs and tag management systems (TMS).
These systems have accelerated the adoption of new technologies and introduced massive efficiencies into marketing operations over the last few years.
But are these platforms independent or do they overlap each other? Are they competitive or complementary? The answer is both “yes” and “no” as they serve widely different purposes for the marketer.
But, before I dive into the TMS vs. DMP debate, I want to make sure you are clear on your core data objectives. After all, your data strategy should fuel your technology investments and not the other way around.
Data management platforms
Let’s start by defining terms. Data management, of course, can refer broadly to diverse capabilities for managing data across an organization.
But in today’s nomenclature, DMPs address a narrower spectrum, specifically audience-based media buying.
DMPs originated late in the last decade to help digital advertisers make the shift from targeting websites, where potential buyers might visit, to targeting audiences with certain attributes.
In the early days of digital advertising, a brand might advertise a financial product, for example, on a site like Yahoo Finance.
But how much better it is to advertise to prospective buyers wherever they browse, based on attributes or qualities suggesting a propensity to buy? This was made possible with the growth of marketing technology and the use of third-party data generated via cookies.
It was then just one more step for brands to combine their own first-party data − where tag management systems excel − with this rich ecosystem of third-party data. That’s the job DMPs do.
They combine online data with offline data into user records, then organize them into audiences based on select attributes to target advertising.
More granular data generated by the tag management system has made for more and richer audience segments to generate the DMP’s audience categories.
Tag management was born at about the same time as the DMP because the number of third-party marketing tags required to operate digital marketing and analytic programs had exploded, burdening IT technical teams and slowing web site performance.
Tag management systems made managing tags — and data — much simpler and more efficient by eliminating the need for software coding.
Most deployments can now be completed in a fraction of the time through intuitive web interfaces.
Enterprise tag management has further evolved to allow marketers to collect and unify omni-channel data, then integrate it all into a customer data layer with common definitions and rules based on business requirements, to fuel action in appropriate systems.
Competing or Complementary
A DMP is a big consumer of data, and it comes from many sources, in particular websites tags and APIs collecting data from browsers.
That’s why a DMP may bundle rudimentary tag management capabilities to deploy media tags required to build out and classify visitors into audience segments.
But these bundled capabilities to help achieve the DMPs core purpose typically don’t also support web analytics, A/B and multivariate testing, recommendation engines, attribution and other data-intensive instrumentations.
These are critical tools used by teams across an organization, and they require more sophisticated tag design.
At the end of the day, the larger enterprise needs a single tag management platform to standardize against and support all tagging requirements – not just the tagging needs of media and paid-acquisition marketing teams.
Fueling DMP Performance
DMPs and tag management systems actually work in a symbiotic relationship that can produce more value on both sides.
- Faster DMP Rollout. Most TMS platforms feature prebuilt tag templates making it possible to quickly fill in fields to get up and running. The DMP gets deployed faster with the data needed to build and activate audiences.
- Better Audiences. The critical base ingredient for any DMP audience is first-party data from the brand’s website, much of it generated by tag management capabilities, which also facilitate creation of a customer data layer with a menu easily mapped to the DMP deployment.
- Data Ownership. Once you build out your audiences, you want to launch new campaigns targeted around your smarter audience segments and collect data on how well they perform, right?But the third party pixel of the DMP doesn’t allow for ownership of this performance data. By including the first party data collection pixel from your TMS as part of every DMP served impression ensures that advertisers don’t lose data access to third-party vendors.After all, it only makes sense that the marketer gets – and keeps – a copy of all their campaign data to integrate with analytics and personalization initiatives.
The bottom line: First-party data from a brand’s website, combined with other sources of online and offline data, is foundational for audiences generated by the DMP.
That makes enterprise tag management a natural ally of the DMP, and capable of greatly improving its scope and power for marketing.
Pelin Thorogood is Chief Strategy Officer at Ensighten. Follow Pelin on Twitter @PelinT.
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