The Painful Part of Behavioral: Tagging

If there’s a cloud to a behavioral campaign’s silver lining, it’s the painful set up and tagging process. How deep the pain depends on factors such as a program’s complexity or the campaign team’s experience. Though tagging hasn’t stunted behavioral targeting’s fast-paced growth, site managers’ and agency traffickers’ collective groans can be heard just about anytime the topic is mentioned.

Tedious and Technical

Tags are BT’s foundation, but tagging is a tedious and technical job. During a campaign, tagging can fail at different points in the process or in the hands of multiple people. One character out of place or a page overlooked can mean the difference between capturing data and program performance, or not. Without that data, optimization is compromised and certain kinds of BT, like retargeting, get stuck. When creating tags, keep in mind: tags can vary based on many factors such as ad trackers and networks used, campaign goals, or the actual site content. Success requires effective communication and coordination and obsessive attention to detail. A bad handoff with incomplete or misunderstood information from publisher to agency or agency to client can be disastrous.

Timing is also important. Agencies bear most of the burden to set up and manage behavioral campaigns for their clients. They employ trained traffickers and have established procedures for QA and testing of these tags. However, client preference or technical barriers like firewalls frequently preclude agencies access to the last mile — the direct posting of tags on the client site. When that occurs, agencies must rely on overstressed client Web departments to post tags accurately and in a timely manner.

Many Points of Failure

Clients must ensure that tags remain in place and untouched for the campaign’s life. This presents a challenge in a Web site’s dynamic environment when pages or page content change or disappear for reasons that may have nothing to do with the media campaign. If a page disappears, tags on that page disappear along with campaign or user data captured by those tags. It may go beyond media as well. Media and search campaigns often function off of the same tags. If the search team changes tags, the change may break the media team’s program and vice versa. To avoid that from happening, participants in various programs must communicate, ensuring that changes to one program’s tags don’t affect the other program. For agencies where media buyer/planners handle both search and media, this should be intuitive. Agencies with separate media and search departments must make a deliberate effort to protect the integrity of tags.

Publishers have entirely different tagging issues. Publishers must be well informed about the program goals and client environment to generate the appropriate pixels, tags, and instructions. Getting it right the first time is always preferable and avoids a confusing and time intensive game of “swap out the tags.”

Whether the issues originate with the agency, client, or publisher (usually it’s a combination of all three), it’s a challenge to get all parties to remain vigilant about how their actions affect tags and the program. Third-party ad servers have helped to address this problem by offering a universal tag, i.e., one tag is generated and updated via the ad server to eliminate the problem of too many touch points when legitimate changes need to be made. Universal tags won’t eradicate problems entirely, but it’s a start.

The buck stops with the agency, which is ultimately accountable for the program success. The agency must have a technology savvy team to keep the tagging process working smoothly. Test orders for e-commerce programs on launch and frequent checking for any tag changes must become part of the campaign optimization checklist. Internal coordination between tagging teams must be automatic. We recommend a highly structured approach with detailed checklists that ensure all tasks are completed accurately and in the right order. Tags often require tweaking even when all parties devote the necessary time and brainpower. At the onset, let the client know this is a highly technical and customized solution that may involve a multi-step process.

In the end, your internal and extended tagging teams must tag team in a seamless and coordinated fashion to hand off accurate and reliable information to drive your success. Though it’s not sexy work, your BT programs depend on it.

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