In September 2017, Tracking First released its first major product enhancement, a connector that allows clients to port data from any source to any target. I sat down with founder Craig Scribner to learn more.
JR: What was the impetus for the recent product development?
CS: More and more our clients are having a less hands-on experience with the tracking codes produced inside their analytics systems. Back in the old days you could manage all your tracking codes with spreadsheets, and you could have different breakdowns, from the most granular to the most abstract, that were comprehensible for a human.
With the advent of marketing automation and dynamic 3rd-party ad systems, most codes are generated now without any (or very little) human intervention. Marketers can engage at a high level: They can indicate what the campaign’s about, what it’s called, who it’s pointing to, etc. As far as all of the different variations of the original campaign code data that an ad system creates — capturing data for all the different placements, the different creative variations, microsites, where it’s going to be advertized — things like that will be managed without the marketer’s direct engagement. The resulting tracking code data, unique to the specific platform and containing a value for every single variable, is likely to be vastly more complex than our clients ever have the ability to know or even care about. They shouldn’t have to care about it.
Unfortunately, when it comes to tracking data, because they didn’t create it, they don’t control it. And the client still needs to make sure that Adobe is getting everything it needs for each of these individual tracking codes. To do that for our clients, we have to go find out what those tracking codes are — because they don’t know — and then we need to go back to the system that generated those codes to find out what they mean. We’ll then transmit those meanings over to Adobe, so the client can still get full and reliable reporting inside their analytics systems.
JR: So although the challenge has moved from an environment where people were handcrafting codes to an environment where those codes are mass produced, the underlying challenge has remained the same: ensuring that whatever the code is, however it gets created, it gets transmitted to Adobe, or some other analytics system, for accurate reporting.
CS: Yes, but I got a little bit nervous when you said “it gets transmitted.”
JR: Right. Because it’s not just transmitting the code that’s the issue…. It’s the description of the code, decrypting what it means and identifying the captured campaign variables, that’s important. Getting that into the analytics system is still the core challenge.
JR: Talk to me about how Tracking First addresses that challenge:
CS: So this is what we do which is so cool: every day, we go into the client’s analytics system and see if they’ve been getting any new tracking codes that haven’t yet been described per the company’s standards. Note that new codes like these are being generated all the time, and until they are fleshed-out in full detail, the analytics system will be limited in its ability to report on them. It can and will keep track of the individual codes themselves, but it won’t roll them into the appropriate Campaigns, Media Channels, Sources, etc. until those codes are identified on a case-by-case basis. Our new solution will fill in those gaps in the reporting automatically.
Suppose the client wants to get DCM data into Adobe. What we can do is go into Adobe, into that big bucket of new codes, and then we can take them apart into their respective DCM IDs. When we do that, we have an API connection into DCM that allow us to go in and ask, “what does this code mean?” We find out all of the good stuff, like the campaign name that was created originally, and other variables. By mapping a code back to its respective attributes, we can gather up those attributes and push them into Adobe. So now Adobe can fully define all these new codes that it was watching, but couldn’t find a meaning for.
JR: Are there any other unique ways we can help clients address this challenge?
CS: Yes. We bring flexibility. Our system allows clients to use the customized campaign naming conventions they have always used. We also bring controls: an administrator can go into our system and see who created which campaigns, and edit that person’s work if necessary. Administrators are in charge of the attributes that are being defined, even if those definitions are originally defined in a system outside of your analytics (e.g., DCM, Facebook, AdWords, etc.). We provide a kind of permanent record for who creates campaigns and codes, and any changes that are made to the system. Tracking First creates a bridge from the control and customization of a handcrafted system to the reach and speed of an automated system, so the client’s analytics system keeps the benefits of both. It’s wins all around.