The pixels are here to stay.

As frustrating as they may be, third party pixels and their syncing cousins are here to stay. They act as key linkages between an advertiser and the media that is bought on their behalf.  While this may lead an advertiser to think that they need a multitude of cluttered pixels placed on their brand site, there are two successful paths that can be taken so that is not the case.

Before we examine those two paths, let’s first clarify the role that pixels play. When a user visits, the Demand Side Platform (DSP) looks at the particular user’s cookie and records and checks if it has seen that user before. If it has not, the DSP sends a unique identifier for that user to different ad tech companies by associating pixels for each one and includes them in the call.  This is also the same process that the DSP uses to exchange identifiers with ad exchanges and DMPs so that when that same user pops up again they can properly connect that user across the different systems. For example, when a user shows up on, the AppNexus Exchange knows how to refer to that user so that the MediaMath DSP will understand and bid accordingly.

As the programmatic industry has developed, hundreds of companies have sprouted up, each solving a particular need. They require advertisers to place their proprietary pixels on their brand sites to provide the service – i.e. LiveRamp for offline cookie sync, Criteo for low funnel retargeting, MediaMath for managing programmatic media campaigns, OwnerIQ for audience monetization, etc. The first step that advertisers should take is to critically evaluate each partner on a media plan and determine if one partner can do the job of many. Often Amnet finds many bidders acting on behalf of a single client, all essentially doing the same thing. This is inefficient for advertisers in that it leads to third party pixels piling up on their brand sites. When a new user visits, partners such as Criteo, MediaMath, Turn,, Yahoo and AppNexus each call third parties to match this new user. The complicated web of calls can be eradicated if advertisers consolidate media plans to the fewest number of external entities as possible.

The other, and often parallel, approach to reducing the number of pixels is to change how they are loaded. That is where tag management companies such as Signal and Tealium come in. Instead of placing multiple pixels directly on to a brand site, they can be placed within a tag management container. These services offer two main benefits. First, by placing third party tags into a container you gain more control of when and how each pixel included fires, cleaning up the total number of pixels fired per brand site page. For example, perhaps the advertiser needs the LiveRamp pixel to fire once per user whereas an OwnerIQ pixel needs to fire once per day. The second benefit of tag management containers is that they are able to load pixels separately from brand site pages. Instead of loading on which may lead to latency in page load times, pixels can be fired server side. Server side firing means that there is a direct connection between the tag management company and the DSP, allowing the company to pass the requisite information to the DSP without capitalizing a user’s bandwidth.

While there is no one-size-fits all answer when it comes to pixel management solutions, it is important that advertisers fully understand the scope of what pixels are and how they function. Whether an advertiser wants to place pixels directly on to their brand site or would rather work with a tag management company, measures can be taken to ensure that the user experience is positive.