Media Planning and Attribution
Another more niche area of digital, media planning and attribution are typically sophisticated analytics platforms that help marketers built a better picture of their consumers, but also where their media campaigns are most successful. There’s been an ongoing argument in digital media for a long time about how to allocate credit for online conversions if the consumer saw an ad in more than one place. A simple model is called “last-touch attribution” which gives 100% credit to the last ad a consumer saw, which is often a search ad; but many media companies (especially those that serve the non-search market) would say that the only reason a consumer was searching in the first place was because they were aware of the company or product, which was most likely driven by a display ad.
Dividing the credit in some fractional manner (called “multi-touch attribution” to many different channels is complicated, but theoretically leads the marketer towards smarter campaign optimizations. C3 Metrics, Korrelate, and Clearsaleing (now part of eBay) are all in this business, while others like Pulsepoint can handle both the analytics as well as the optimized media buying, and still others like Networked Insights specialize in merging data from multiple sources to feed predictive models and provide broader consumer insights.
Another Ad Ops heavy part of the digital space, I’ve always thought of tag management technology as an ironic joke within the industry. The landscape has gotten so fragmented, and publishers and advertisers are both working with so many technology vendors that they often need a technology to manage the technology(!), and that’s the service tag management provides. To be a little more specific, technology partners often require some kind of tag on page to work – that’s true of data management platforms, retargeting platforms, analytics vendors, and more. But making changes to the source code of a webpage is often a non-trivial exercise at a big company – it can take a long time and involve a lot of people.
Not only that, but many tags only need to fire on certain pages or certain parts of the site, and it’s not easy to do that. So, tag management acts like an ad server for vendor tags, and allow both publishers and marketers to control when vendor tags serve, how often they should serve, in what order of priority, and for how long. In this way the tag management system is the only technology that the IT team actually has to place in the source code, and from there the ad operations group within the company can place or remove whatever they want.
Measurement and Analytics
DMPs (Data Management Platforms) and Data Aggregators
Outside of Ad Servers, DSPs, SSPs, and Ad Exchanges, the data space is the next most important one right now in the digital space. Like many categories we’ve covered so far, there is a wide variety of companies represented on the LUMAscape. The two major services these companies provide is data management software and data products. The software piece allows both publishers and marketers to tag users (usually via a cookie, but many DMPs are ID agnostic at this point and support any arbitrary way to identify a user) and assign them to specific audience when they demonstrate a particular behavior, like navigating to a particular page or perhaps declare information about themselves through a form.
Data products are cohorts, or segments of users the vendor creates on their own by observing user behavior across a network of sites that host their tag, or by combining multiple 3rd party datasets they might purchase into a proprietary product, which they can then sell to anyone whether they are on their platform or not. Some, like BlueKai and Lotame, provide both data management platform software as well as data products, while others like Krux, Demdex (now part of Adobe), and X+1 strictly provide the technology. Some like Exelate (now part of Nielsen) strictly provide data products and do not offer the platform itself as a service. Still others like Peer39 and Proximic specialize in semantic data vs. behavioral data, and companies like Upfront (now part of Undertone), were really more like smart retargeters and a bit mis-categorized in my own humble opinion.
These companies also cover a range, but tend to be the old guard of the data business from direct mail days who have modernized their businesses for the digital age. You might think of them as data aggregators, but with data that doesn’t come from an online source. Many distribute their data through 3rd party DMPs, though in recent years many have also built their own in-house DMP technology as well. The value these companies bring is in aggregating, scoring, and normalizing large public and private datasets that cover core demographic traits. Things like age, car and home ownership, presence of children, political affiliation are sourced from strictly offline datasets and might require tying multiple datasets together to get to the truth. For example, if you buy a house, a data supplier could know that through public property registration records, which may or may not be digitized. Often, data suppliers have to merge many different sources for a single data point to get national coverage.
The other major dataset these large suppliers have access to is loyalty card data, which they aggregate and anonymize. If you wanted to target people who are brand loyal to Tide, that data is coming from grocery loyalty cards, which the data suppliers tie to cookies through an offline data match process. Acxiom, Experian, V12, and SymphonyIRI are in that business, while folks like BlueCava are more specialized in providing identity maps across devices. They don’t actually own data, but activate others’ data across channels. For example, if a marketers wanted to target data they had connected to a cookie over in a mobile environment, they could use BlueCava to transfer their cookie-based dataset to a non-cookie identifier in a privacy compliant way.