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What are tag redirects, or piggyback tags?

Tag redirects (also referred to as piggybacks, daisy-chains, or hops) are simply the result of ad technology, or tracking, companies partnering with one another to better qualify and reach a user base. When a brand chooses to work with a third-party partner to drive brand awareness, that partner is measured by its ability to accomplish the end goal (often, increased traffic to the brand’s site). When third-party companies think about the most efficient way to accomplish this goal, they turn to partnerships in an effort to dramatically increase their reach and improve return on investment for the brand. Armed with a network of partners, the brand is able to simply tell them: “if you see this user on a website, show them an ad, and I’ll pay you for it.” No longer is the onus to find a specific user, or set of users, to show an ad to just one partner; instead, there is a network of partners looking for ads for this user.

The way that this works (behind the scenes) for example, begins with a retargeting company:

  • The purpose of the retargeting partner is to show ads to consumers that previously accessed a brand’s site. Say for example, Bob visits a site selling athletic equipment and views, but does not buy, a pair of running shoes. The retargeting partner will show Bob ads for those shoes after he leaves the site, in order to entice him to come back and complete his purchase.
  • The retargeter may partner with a data aggregator (a company that gathers online data points about consumers based on segments such as age or income) to shed additional insights on Bob. This data aggregator may append information to the retargeter’s data, noting that, in addition to his interest in running shoes, Bob is 40 years old, married, and lives in the Northeast. Further, that data aggregator may choose to also partner with an optimization vendor, as well as an ad server to deliver the actual ad creative that is most likely to entice Bob to buy those sneakers. These partnerships often take the form of piggybacks, or script redirects – additional tracking code injected onto a webpage – that is not placed there by the site owner.
  • With each hop, a new vendor has access to a wealth of data about Bob and the page on which the tag has been inserted. This means that many more vendors than the original retargeting partner are able to construct a more detailed picture of Bob, and his online behavior, potentially undermining the exclusivity of the original site’s audience data, and therefore its value overall.