Beacons? Pixels? Tags?
What difference does a word make?
As it turns out, quite a lot! So, in what follows, I will highlight those key words, so that we pay attention to them!
I was new to the domain of adding conversion pixels to web pages. I was asked to find the mismatch between traffic numbers being reported by Sizmek and AKQA on Yahoo webpages.
I started googling, and taking a look at the documentation, and I had an AHA moment. The industry had a problem, and it had come up with multiple solutions.
Problem: The marketing team buys traffic from multiple networks. All those networks demand their own conversion pixel – the traditional 1×1 <img> variety. To place these on the pages, the marketing team had to contact the engineering team to make code changes for the web pages. This caused delay. People are aversive to delays. There was a problem.
Solution: What if the marketing team could make a one-time request only to the product team to put something like a Trojan Horse on the page. After that, the Marketing team could change what image tags were placed on the page without having to bother the engineering team.
THE HUNT FOR THE VANISHING PIXELS
One day, a Sizmek engineer hypothesized that it could be an Ad Blocker issue. We downloaded the most popular AdBlocker. When we turned it on, we saw no Sizmek Pixel firing. Only the AKQA fired. When we turned the AdBlocker off, both fired. Bingo! Perhaps …
We were not sure how popular this Ad Blocker was – we googled – and found that more than 50% of the browsers had this installed! Bingo!
This is an open source Ad Blocker – so, we were able to look at the source code of the text file that determines whether a URL is an Ad. It is called EasyList. Sure enough, Sizmek pixels domains were listed as Ads.
WHY SIZMEK TAGS WERE BLOCKED BUT NOT AKQA OR DOUBLECLICK’S
An obvious question remained – why was Sizmek being blocked, but not AKQA or Google’s doubleclick.
The answer was that when serving Ads, and when firing conversion pixels, Doubleclick and AKQA were using different subdomains … and only the ad serving subdomain was blocked.
For Sizmek, there was only one common domain between ad serving and conversion. So, when Ad serving was blocked, so was the conversion!
We decided to create a new subdomain for Sizmek and use that. We made DNS entries in Sizmek. We changed our methodology on creating pixels. It was hell. But it worked. Until it didn’t. A month later, the new subdomain had been added to the Easy List.
It took more than a year for Sizmek to work it out with Ad Blockers team to have a separate entry for the conversion tags. In the meantime, we had moved on to a different vendor – Doubleclick – which did not have this issue.