For our fifth JUMP interview, we had a chance to speak with Mike Sands, president and CEO of BrightTag, who will at the JUMP conference on January 30, 2013 in New York. 

Before Mike Sands joined BrightTag, he was part of the founding team at Orbitz acting as both CMO and COO until they were acquired. In an earlier position, Sands was what he called a rebel at GM when he fought to spend 2% of the budget online, around the time with you could, in his words, literally buy the internet by getting banner ads on

Unfortunately those early days are gone, and now sites are bogged down by miscellaneous code and third party script as marketers try to be smart about advertising online. This has brought about the new future of tag management including companies such as BrightTag who are trying to improve the safety, security and speed of ecommerce sites today.

Sands gave us some of his time to talk more about the importance of tag management and what CMOs have to consider moving forward. 

What is the biggest challenge in terms of tag management?

For me what was challenging in ecommerce as a CMO was how quickly I can innovate. We were duking it out in the market place but with 125 other tech priorities, mark up often got removed and tag management down played so marketing programs were flying blind.

The big problem that still exists is that marketing departments can’t be nimble, can’t respond to rate of change to innovate in ecommerce. How do you harness without a tool to innovate so companies can move to be competitive?

Some might list tag management more as an admin task. What is it to you?

Tag Management comes through the lens of admin challenge working seamlessly with analytics but if you go deeper then you see it’s a way to innovate. Online marketing is data driven. If a tag is not a smart tag to create context then it’s not good enough. 

Today you need to know not only that someone was on site but the size, price point, brand, etc, they were looking at so it adds to a rich marketing experience when the customer is seeing your ads elsewhere. 

It’s too difficult to manage rich data interactions on your own so you need to have someone connect data in real time to generate ROI. Data driven marketing is only growing so it’s time to consider this.

Tag management was easy at first but now you have to connect data to 100+ providers so the more data you can share, the better off you are.

What have given tags a bad rap?

Tags themselves can be scoundrels that impact the performance of the site. Do you want more third party code or less? You always want less if you want to control the destiny of your site. There is also the ability to eliminate tags from being there at all. Many third party players can go totally tagless. Then less can go wrong.

On a search result page there are millions of lines of code. You don’t want third party script to mess up the party. If you don’t have it, you will protect the performance of the site. I think tags been around for 17-18 years. Not really been a leap forward in tech that addresses new generation of sites until now.

What’s stopping people from using tag management systems?

If you look at the category as a whole, we hit the tipping point at end of 2010. As a discipline goes on the web, it’s still a relatively young category. First you get early adopters and fast followers and then you get the bulk of users.

In 2010 – 2011 early adopters started looking into new ways of tag management and got people to jump in. If you’re going into 2013 and haven’t got tag management in place, then it will be on list. This is just another tool to help improve and drive ROI.

But big companies still need to find budget and put these changes into their planning cycle. How do they get buy in?

You have to look not at use cases specific to brands but real life experiences. Brands in the e-tail space go into code freeze around August/ September until after New Years. So basically a third of the year you can’t make a change to anything on the site before working with a tag management system. What’s so powerful is that now that third of a year during code freeze, marketers now have a safe haven where marketing can continue to innovate and not be blocked by a freeze.

The ability to go tagless with many vendors allows brands to improve their site by making them faster and safer and it is a boost of confidence to IT departments. Without tag management, you can’t inject new vendors and changes on the site instantly so there is a change management process to go thorough. If you’re tagless then you have no third party code on site and all changes are happening on the servers. This allows clients to gain a lot of confidence. 

For a third party it can be hard to successfully get on the page. But with tag management systems, especially tagless ones, you don’t need IT permission to get on the page. That’s the speed of innovation that we want to sponsor. It’s a business challenge and a technology challenge and we help to overcome that.

Tag management helps small companies work with big brands and as a former CMO, I was inspired by that.

Any top tips for CMOs?

If I was a CMO now, I’d want to recommend that if you don’t have a data set, you need one because your competitor will. So what info do you want to collect and make available? Next day data? Or do you want to live and work with real time data so solution providers can act on that? You need a strategy to help in real time for customers who want the personalization now.

Also you need to think about your relevancy and speed to market. Usually you have to compromise with that but the lines are now blurred so you can have real time and relevance. Your data strategy has to consider that. Think: how do I do this with a sense of immediacy?

These are the challenges but in order to succeed you need to be the data CMO.