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Tag, You’re It!

By Martin Kihn | August 21, 2013 | 0 Comments


All but lost amid the hoohaw around the Omnicom-Publicis merger announcement a few weeks ago, Adobe snapped up a product called Satellite from Search Discovery to build out its Marketing Cloud. Still chewing over Adobe’s $600 million acquisition of Neolane earlier in July, many digital marketers had a similar reaction: What’s a Satellite?

Answer: a tag management solution. One with an elegant interface, clients such as Toyota and TicketMaster, and a vendor-agnostic approach that adds much-needed extensibility to Adobe’s existing Tag Manager.

To which, some added: That’s nice. Who cares?

Answer: you will.

Adobe’s acquisition is the latest flutter in a tag management maelstrom. In less than a year, Google Analytics launched Tag Manager, data platform [x+1] acquired Ubertag, BrightTag bought Site Tagger, and ad network ValueClick launched its own offering. Gartner estimates industry revenue doubled this past year, and i-bankers are sniffing around hot private providers such as Tealium, Ensighten, BrightTag and TagMan.


As Jon Baron, co-founder and CEO of TagMan, told me, “TMS [i.e., a Tag Management System] is the key to data unification for a Big Data Marketing world.”

The critical phrase here for once is not Big Data but data unification. TMS solutions appeared 4-5 years ago as a way to clean up a proliferation of tags from analytics platforms, ad servers, third-party data providers, A/B testing tools, et al., that threatened to drown websites in a junkheap of JavaScript. Generally, the solutions replace tag-demonium with a single line of code, which then acts as a gateway through which tags are passed from the TMS.

Over the years, benefits moved beyond faster page load times and code cycles, to the creation of business logic around the tags, to a new generation of solutions that layer in visual elements such as chat and search boxes. But the unifying theme – as it was, interestingly, in the Publicis-Omnicom merger – is data.

Specifically, the merger illustrates three accelerating trends:

  1. Marketing’s growing independence from IT – The original appeal of the TMS was that it allows users to work around release cycles of their own IT organizations, changing tags at the speed of digital marketing. Such work-arounds are becoming routine.
  2. Twilight of the point solution – Marketing and media players such as Adobe, and Google are on a buying tear based on the assumption that users prefer to use an integrated suite rather than cobble one together (and support it). They’re probably right.
  3. Rise of the Data Hub – The integrated data hub envisions site, media and customer data singing in harmony. A lot of that data already flows through TMS’s. Google’s recently-announced consortium with IBM and others to push common data layer standards for web and media tags shows how important tags are to the evolving hub ecosystem.

Adobe aims to own more of the enterprise marketing stack, and it’s clear who’s in their sites. The last line of the press release announcing the merger stated Adobe-Satellite’s continued support for Google Analytics – adding, however, they  “will no longer provide professional services to implement Google Analytics.”

In other words, to Google: Tag, you’re it!

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