WTF is a ‘tagless’ solution, and why are there so many tags? (Part 2)

In case you missed part I of this post, you should check that out before reading further. If you’ve already been down that road, here’s the next installment in our series about tagless solutions.

OK, so what’s the downside for a publisher?

Assuming you’re setting these providers up as price priority line items, there isn’t any competition downside. If you were setting line items up as sponsorship that could limit AdX’s effectiveness which may not be wise depending on your yield strategy.  There are also concerns that adding partners ahead of your invocation code increases page latency and I strongly suggest publishers monitor this closely if they choose to experiment with tagless.

Also, depending on how sensitive you are to protecting your 3rd party data, one could argue that having a variety of ‘tagless’ solutions looking at every impression that flows through your property is problematic. For the SBM sites this isn’t an issue as we sell less than 5% of our inventory directly so a majority of what we offer is already on the open exchange but it’s something to consider and decide for yourself what’s best.

How much of your inventory do these ‘tagless’ partners take?

This will totally depend on your site, your content, the value of your audience and the ‘tagless’ partner(s) you select to work with. That said, if you tend to perform well with your current programmatic partners that would indicate your audience is valued highly in an exchange environment and this should be a solid boost.

Why do you keep calling these solutions ‘tagless’ if they require so many tags?

Fair point and I’m honestly not sure. I’ve heard people suggest ‘heavy iron’ as an alternative title (referencing the amendments to the source code) but that doesn’t really work either. I’m open to better naming suggestions if you have them.

We understand you didn’t personally create the name, but any theories on what it might refer to?

Not personally but my friend (who also happens to be a great developer) Peter Bernheim of suggests the following: I think the idea is that maybe they are ‘tag-second’ in that the decision on how and whether to fill an ad slot is more or less decided before the ad tag is invoked on the page. The script that is added to allow for the first look at impressions allows the tagless partner to evaluate the impression but not return creative.  The eventual call to the partner, should their tagless tag win, does return a creative but perhaps does less logic (?) on the partner’s side before returning a creative.

What are some other theoretical benefits of this technology?

Assuming proper setup, this will allow a publisher to set more accurate price floors for top level bidding against AdX. By selling a higher percentage of inventory at ‘first look’ levels before a passback waterfall you’re increasing revenue and avoiding the latency/discrepancy associated with passbacks. As mentioned previously, you’re also passing a direct value into AdX which starts the bidding process at a rate higher than it would have otherwise which should result in incremental revenue.

Have you measured the discrepancy percentage between these technologies and your ad server? 

Yes, thus far partner vs. DFP impression data ranged from 0 – 4% difference. An improvement vs. most 3rd party javascript setups and a vast improvement vs. passback setups.

What in gods name is a KVP and should I be afraid of them?

A KVP (key-value pair) is just a way to pass a specific value into an ad unit you’ve already setup (in DFP) to allow for custom partner targeting. In this case, that custom targeting would be an identified fixed bid from one of your ‘tagless’ partners for an incoming impression. The KVP is how you let DFP know which of your ‘tagless’ partners has signaled yes (and at what CPM) for an incoming impression. The partners you decide to test with will provide the KVP’s you’ll need and should offer plenty of support around building them (or do it for you).

You mentioned changes to the invocation code, that scares me. What does it mean?

Each of these solutions have a few required changes to the head tag as well as the invocation code you use to run DFP. I don’t handle the changes or the deploys of the changes personally but I can say after a few initial bumps the first time we tried it, it’s been very smooth since then. What helped us break through on the first attempt was to ask for an example of how the source code should look on the page, and we worked from there. That was actually much easier to follow than the supplied documentation. This seems obvious but it’s very important to lean on the technical contact provided to you for questions, concerns and QA. We also make sure to test in a staging environment before taking anything live.

Do these solutions work with both sync and async GPT tags?

So far all but one of the technologies we’ve looked at work with both sync and async tags.

What companies offer ‘tagless’ solutions?

I’m positive this isn’t a complete list (feel free to leave your companies name in the comments and I’ll add you) but I’m aware of tagless solutions from: Amazon (A9), Casale, Criteo, YieldBot, Sonobi, OpenX, Rubicon Project, and Pubmatic.

How many tagless partners should you work with? 

I’m honestly not sure what the correct answer to this question is. On the one hand, the more partners you work with the better chance you have of one of those partners placing a high bid for an impression (in theory). The flip side of that is stacking partner after partner could add latency to page load and/or result in lost impressions. This is precisely what I’m attempting to figure out at the moment so I will update this as I have a better sense of what works for us.