What’s Keeping You From Multi-Touch Attribution?

This article originally appeared on MediaPost.

Multi-touch attribution (MTA) is all the buzz among marketers because it offers a tantalizing opportunity to determine how ads are working across the customer journey.

So why are they so timid about employing it? Three basic reasons:

1.     Marketers’ data is dispersed throughout various platforms and vendors, making it hard to integrate and track the entire path to purchase.

2.     The industry continues to analyze and optimize media based on pricing instead of conversion-based metrics, so there isn’t a clear picture of what platforms are delivering on KPIs.

3.     Knowledge is power, but it’s also scary — particularly for those in the marketing ecosystem whose value is connected to the size of the media budget, not how effective it is.

Still, there are are ways to get around these obstacles. Consider:

1. Getting a handle on your data. A recent poll by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Winterberry Group found almost 60% of marketing and media practitioners expect to be engaged in cross-channel measurement and attribution this year.

That said, getting a handle on your data doesn’t mean entrusting the customer journey to massive partners such as Google and Facebook. While the mega-platforms are certainly valuable, they can’t track the entire customer journey, and, at any rate, they own the resulting data from marketing campaigns — not the marketer.

That’s why we are also seeing a trend toward “data lakes,” which store a vast amount of data generated from the marketers’ own advertising spend. With the help of data scientists, these data lakes can be dredged to uncover a meaningful view of a company’s customer base.

2. Shifting focus from media to measurement. Measurement has traditionally been an outgrowth of media, and the need for marketers to understand base level ad performance, and/or how much it will cost them to reach their target. But marketers who deploy MTA are thinking about measurement outside of individual media channels — instead, looking across them, shifting their focus from CPMs to conversion-based metrics.

Some analytics teams are excited about alternative metrics, especially those who are driving the development of data lakes and other technologies to demonstrate ROI and campaign performance. But marketers face a challenge when it comes to shifting the mindset around measurement at an organizational level, which requires gaining the buy-in of key decision makers who control media budgets. MTA and metrics tied to showing real performance are beneficial to both client and agency as a whole, and showing that that demonstrates value beyond just managing a media budget.

3. Knowledge isn’t scary — it’s empowering. A related factor is that, with years of conventional wisdom — and conventional media buys – under their belts, marketers can be wary of the change MTA will impart. No one wants to discover that the tens of millions of dollars invested in an Olympic sponsorship didn’t move the needle — or that the marketing budget is being slashed because of that fact.

The key is to reframe what the enhanced knowledge of MTA actually offers. It unlocks valuable insights.

The reality is, bigger companies serve billions of ad impressions per month — which, at a certain point, is not so much frequency as it is waste. Especially if you’re trying to reach valued customers, you want to protect them, not abuse them. Value has somehow become equated with bottom-feeding, where everyone chases the lowest CPM. MTA is about moving the conversation from price to effectiveness, diverting budgets to more effective channels as needed based on individual channel performance and conversion.

Consider the example of a retailer whose objective was to get men to buy gifts for the women in their lives during the holiday shopping season.The brand bought time on the NFL’s “Sunday Night Football” — but it also bought Christmas movie reruns at around 5% of the NFL price tag.

The KPI for this brand wasn’t just total conversions, but return on ad spend. While the NFL buys resulted in more total conversions, buying the Christmas movie reruns drove conversions more efficiently. In fact, on a cost-per-conversion basis, the football buy wasn’t even in the top 10

You can bet the retailer, armed with insights from its 2016’s Christmas buying cycle, will shift budgets in its 2017 upfront media planning to channels that performed better.

The beauty of MTA is that it allows you to look at different channels across the path to purchase to see what has the biggest impact. But it’s only possible for marketers and agencies willing to get their hands around their data, reframe their view from pricing to conversion-based measurement — and, where the data dictates it, to throw out conventional wisdom.

  • #addressable media
  • #cross-channel
  • #customer journey
  • #media budgets
  • #multi-touch attribution
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