Marketing Agility: Win the Fight Against Wasted Digital Spend

White Paper

With input from hundreds of digital marketing and ecommerce professionals across an array of travel, retail, FMCG and financial sectors, the Marketing Agility Study reveals the main findings from TagMan and’s Big Marketing Survey.

The report examines marketers’ current perceptions on the new digital landscape, how data is affecting their workload and how they measure marketing performance to optimise media spend. Exploring poor practices and urging marketers to declare war on wasted digital spend; the study features trends, analysis, best practice case studies and top tips for the reader, as well as introducing the concept of marketing agility.

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The ‘A’ Word Is Agility

Wanamaker was talking about the dominant media of the time - print and posters. Since then, more measurable media; radio, TV and the internet, have materialised. Yet Wanamaker’s words still resonate for marketers.

Faced with a plethora of channels to choose from, a typical media plan for ecommerce brands today includes digital display, social, search and content, as well as mobile, video and email. The ‘a’ word in the marketer’s lexicon is no longer austerity, but ‘agility’ – an ability to react in real-time to changing market conditions, using simpler, quicker, more cost-effective tools allows marketers to find out which half.

Speaking to client body The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers’ annual marketer conference last year, Diageo Western Europe’s white spirits director Philip Gladman (marketing boss of global brands such as Smirnoff), said that because of digital marketing and consumer empowerment, the multiskilling required of marketers today meant they had to become multi-faceted like ‘Swiss army knives’.

It was a memorable phrase that sums up the new normal for marketers: to have creative flair, be good with numbers and have both a strategic and forensic view of the media they use.

Complicated Purchase Journeys

With so many channels at marketers’ disposal, the consumer’s road to purchase is far from linear, meaning customers often use more than one medium on that journey. To add to the complexity, these channels produce reams of fragmented data that can make the much-vaunted ‘single customer view’ a dim prospect and poor quality marketing decisions a more likely one.

That media fragmentation has led Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest advertiser and owner of brands such as Pampers, Gillette and Ariel, to recently launch a major review of the return on investment (ROI) it gets from its marketing spend, in particular to better capture the impact of digital media. It comes as no surprise then, to learn that accurate reporting in order to demonstate ROI on all marketing activity is a marketer’s chief challenge today.

This is not a hypothetical observation: it is a key finding from a major benchmarking survey to investigate how well marketers know which digital channels deliver return.

Prompted by a desire to identify agile strategies that deliver more effective digital marketing, and more specifically, to explore if advertisers understand which channels are delivering sales, TagMan decided to investigate. Together with, TagMan has carried out an industry-wide survey, “Marketing & eCommerce Agility: Do you measure up?” that reveals digital practices and challenges today.

Respondents to the survey came from a cross-section of the marketing business: senior marketers across key verticals such as Retail, Financial Services, Travel & Hospitality, Consumer products, technology, FMCG and financial services, agency practitioners as well as service suppliers.

The Big Issues

A key aim of the survey was to establish what ‘agile’ looks like in a marketing environment. While many brands and their marketers talk about how agile they are, we know little about how that agility plays out exactly. Small wonder that respondents rated the ability to master the operational management of marketing systems as the second biggest challenge they face.

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Digital’s generation of such huge volumes of data is a phenomenon that has given rise to the term ‘big data,’ which the TagMan survey reveals presents an equally big test for marketers. Respondents were cautious on how well they understood big data’s ability to help their businesses. A majority either ‘somewhat’ appreciated big data’s value or did not agree at all.

Agile marketing demands equally agile solutions. In an ideal world, marketers would have a dashboard that allows them to manipulate big data so as to know which channel delivers that all important sale or conversion event. What ‘agile’ looks like:

The reality can be somewhat different. All parties in marketing need performance criteria, and not being aware of how your external partners are held to account can mark the first step toward marketing failure. Yet this is the uncertainty that we uncovered. When respondents were asked how confident they are in their ability to measure ROI, to which a majority (58%) replied with a tentative ‘somewhat confident’. When we pursued this, enquiring how they currently reward marketing partners such as technology vendors, email service providers and publishers, the overwhelming response (over 49%) said they were ‘not sure’.

It’s a finding that will not cause surprise, when you consider that C-suite and shareholders are constantly pressing marketers for better returns, with the result being increased pressure to get campaigns out the door.

Last Click Domination

For those respondents who are aware of how channel performance is measured, ‘the last click’ was found to be the primary method of reward. Again, we may have expected this, when we consider that e-commerce companies have, for understandable reasons, tended to focus on driving clicks to their sites and apps, regardless of which media compelled that click.

We should not forget, also, that last-click attribution - when a consumer action or purchase is attributed only to the last ad impression he or she saw (rather than taking others they were exposed to in multiple channels early on in the path into account) is what helped Google establish a multibillion dollar business as the biggest seller of online display advertising.

Again, the reversion to last-click as the core metric of channel performance can be understood when we think of the complexity of having to streamline fragmented digital data in real time. Back in 2007, one Microsoft sales director was determined that it didn’t have to be this way for marketers. Jon Baron, then at Microsoft, along with Paul Cook, pioneered ‘tag management,’ the ability to manage online marketing tags, and the data these generate, in a single system. And with that, TagMan was born.

While interest in tag management systems (TMS) has skyrocketed since then, according to Forrester’s authoritative 2012 ‘Understanding tag management tools and technology’ survey, actual uptake of TMS is more patchy.

This was borne out by our survey. Asked if their business used a TMS, 38% - said no, while 27% said they did not know what tag management was. This finding echoes that of Forrester’s TMS report, which found that only 7% of users surveyed were following highly formalised TMS processes, putting marketing and analytics efficacy at risk.

Display Ads: Do They Deliver?

Though search still claims the lion’s share of digital marketing budgets, the rise of social media, online video and mobile marketing has triggered a surge in the growth of online display advertising. UK digital ad spend was up 12.5% to almost £5.5bn in 2012, according to the IAB’s 2012 Internet Advertising Revenue Report, a survey conducted independently by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Few topics in digital marketing cause as much dissent as “what is the correct way to measure the success of display advertising.” Our survey is revealing on the matter, with a majority of respondents saying they use clickthrough rate (CTR) as their metric, closely followed by click-to-conversion.

To measure a campaign’s success in clicks is standard practice for eCommerce brands, particularly for Google’s PPC ads. As we have outlined earlier however, the journey to a sale is multi-dimensional, relying on lastclick as a metric can lead to errors of judgment: it is the marketing equivalent of the football team manager who assesses his players based solely on their goal scoring ability and therefore ending up with an unbalanced team full of strikers, with no mid-field or defence.

Savvy marketers, with the help of the right solutions providers, are learning that display shouldn’t just be judged on the last click and that they need to look at other stages before purchase. TagMan client Air New Zealand was aware that last-click was an unreliable metric and that it was in the dark as to the true value of its display advertising. Historically, ANZ’s display ads were seen as underperforming on a last-click win basis but once ANZ deployed TMS technology, a different story emerged.

With TagMan’s help, ANZ could see if a consumer had started their activity with a branded keyword search, and if they then interacted with the client’s site due to SEO. After this, ANZ could see if he or she may have been exposed to some display advertising, before a further brand keyword paid-search click and finally converting directly through the site.

Credit Where Credit’s Due

Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of the world’s biggest marketing agency group WPP, likes to refer to Google as a ‘frenemy’ – or friendly enemy, in relation to their dominance of the search and display ad market. In the first quarter of 2013, Google’s share of the US display market had reached 24%, with its closest competitors, Yahoo and Facebook, holding less than 10% market share, according to research firm IDC.

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Addressing the issue head-on, our survey asked respondents: ‘Are you concerned about Google’s dominance in PPC advertising?’ to which many (over 39%) said ‘yes’.

Perhaps this level of concern is no longer necessary: Brands now have the capability to isolate the real drivers of sales: Boden, the British fashion brand beloved by Michelle Obama, was determined to take advantage of this insight.

The mail order company describes customers as “channel agnostic” and so asked TagMan to implement a universal container tag to replace all the tags on its web pages from web analytics, affiliates, display ad servers, and Google AdWords, and re-house them in the TagMan system.

Email is still an established channel for marketers, picked by survey respondents as the single most effective channel for delivering sales Q13. Boden is a significant user of email, and using a TMS system, the brand was able to dedupe some of the click overlap with affiliates by setting rules to pay commission only where email did not appear in the conversion path or appeared after the affiliate click. “It wasn’t really about saving money, it was about optimising spend and performance along paths to conversion” explained Oliver Elliott, who, as online acquisition manager at Boden recruited TagMan to solve the last-click conundrum.

From Social To Sale

Social media offers marketers a mouth-watering value proposition: users spend huge amounts of leisure time on social sites, sharing their interests and demographics - creating unprecedented targeting opportunities for brands. The targeting and interactive capabilities of social sites such as Facebook allow advertisers to use them as both a broadcast and narrow-cast channel, potentially delivering a social commerce utopia.

So far, so good - but as the debate moves on from the value of fuzzy metrics such as ‘likes’ to the demand for harder proof of social’s effectiveness, marketers remain uncertain of the return they are getting from social. Asked if they were confident that their social media investments were delivering revenue, 43% said ‘no’, while 32% said they were ‘not sure’.

Peter Sensier, online marketing manager at Waitrose says “Our goal is faily straight forward - we want to better understand the required mix of budget, targeting and messaging for each channel as part of one customer journey. With that knowledge, we beleive we can better plan our activity across bought, earned and owned channels. That said, we recognise that there are many different variations of the customer journey, so this is not so much an exercise of identifying the one exact path for all customers, but rather identifying patterns in the channel mix that have the greatest positive effect on sales performance”.

But recent technological collaborations mean it is now possible to track a brand’s social media activity from social through to conversion. TagMan’s partnership with social media buying technology firm RadiumOne, a company that shares TagMan’s goal of helping brands to understand a user’s path-to-purchase, allows advertisers to follow customer journeys across any social platform to sale.

The deal between the two companies sees TagMan’s platform integrated with RadiumOne’s ShareGraph technology, allowing brands to attribute and track tags across social media sites.


The buzz about big data is almost a distraction: the promise inherent in data-driven marketing has always been that brands can, in real time, reallocate budgets to drive better results through the channels that work best. Social media’s contribution to big data has, some might argue, made channel attribution and a single customer journey view an even more elusive pipedream. But as we have seen in this paper, confident brands such as Vodafone, Boden and Air New Zealand have, by adopting the discipline of tag management, shown there is a solution to marketers ‘half my budget is wasted’ dilemma. Big data is no longer the future: It has, as demonstrated here, already become the norm. Master it to win the fight against wasted digital spend.

Case Study

Big data requires evolved solutions: With all brands having some kind of social footprint on the internet, the question for marketers today is how can they use the vast quantities of social data generated every day to enhance ad targeting.

We saw earlier that marketers are unsure of big data’s contribution to their business. Navigating big data goes to the heart of TagMan’s mission, neatly summed up by Chris Allison, (Air New Zealand’s online sales manager) when he says that “big data is only valuable if used and executed in the right way”.

To conquer the challenges that big data presents, TagMan earlier this year took tag management to its next stage of evolution: it launched the industry’s first marketing data platform (MDP) that acts as a bridge between tag management and a business’s other systems, such as its CRM database, bid-management and order fulfilment systems. In doing so, the platform is designed to complement what systems businesses might already have in place, not to over-ride or complicate them – a key issue for marketers, as we saw in the survey.

Transparency should be the watchword of all marketing solutions and a specific focus of TagMan’s MDP is its visual capabilities: the platform’s Visual Insights Suites provide enhanced visualisation tools to enable marketers to visualise and analyse the full customer journey.

Allison describes how using the MDP, ANZ is now “able to react and employ an efficient and effective test and learn process which enabled us to use our customers’ conversion data to sew a thread through the non-linear customer journey.”

Gareth Davies, head of channel demand at TagMan client Vodafone, describes the MDP as “the next logical evolution for TagMan” and says “Since we began working with TagMan’s Marketing Data Platform, we have been able to analyse the efficiency of all the channels within our digital marketing mix and re-allocate investment to those areas previously undervalued by traditional last-click models”.

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