Piggybacking in online advertising refers to…

Piggybacking has two main meanings in marketing and online advertising, one more controversial than the other.

The more positive use is as a marketing strategy where two businesses collaborate and represent each other’s complementary products in a competitive market rather than competing with each other. Piggybacking is a cost-effective strategy as both partners represent each other in their respective markets

The more controversial use of the term refers to when adtech firms drop a third-party cookie, or tag, on a website’s visitor (without access granted by the website) via a different ad tech firm that has already got legitimate access to that visitor.

It is seen as controversial because this cookie is tracking users on a browswer level without the subscriber's explicit permission or knowledge.

Why would I need this?

Online piggyback marketing is also referred to as tag redirects, daisy chains, hops or cookie syncing. 

Online advertising is historically limited by domain-specific cookies, which restricts marketers’ ability to collect information and display relevant ads to website visitors, reducing their reach to target audiences.

Online piggybacking methods overcome these restrictions by exchanging data across different platforms and sites, allowing different SSPs, DSPs, ad exchanges and CDPs to synchronise their cookies. The process helps these providers to profile audiences more easily, enabling accurate targeting of users with relevant ads.

How does it work?

The process uses piggyback tags which begin with a container tag (or universal or master tag) that redirects to additional tags not placed on the site. The tag fires without directly applying to the page it's on, maintaining site security and ensuring no data is stolen.

For example, if you visit an e-commerce site and add an item to your shopping cart, when you later browse a different site, you may see an ad for that item you put in your cart on the first site.

Third-party tracking daisy chains can cause operators issues with privacy regulators as it makes it difficult for them to limit the external companies’ abilities to collect information about their audiences.

The other use of ‘piggyback marketing’ works when partnering companies are selling complementary products – such as a car manufacturing company promoting tyres or batteries from other companies, as they are complementary products rather than competing products. 

Real world examples

“For the first time in history the regulators are ahead of the ad industry”

88% of digital advertisers “unknowingly sharing data before user has given consent”