Marketers agree that, in general, attribution has become much more difficult. Long, complex customer journeys with multiple touchpoints that cross channels are one reason. Another is changes in tracking technology, privacy regulations, and platform practices.
Measurement was easier when marketers were able to do a basic integration with DoubleClick campaign manager and use a common identifier, tracking or trading that data in the open ecosystem without the consent of consumers.
But the industry must evolve, both to protect consumer privacy and to help marketers work effectively. There are four important factors to consider as the attribution industry matures: tracking, identity, trust and comparability.
1. Need for New Tracking Technologies
We can no longer operate off of the exhaust data from DCM. We need to build proper robust server-to-server integrations with platforms and publishers to ensure we can track all of the ad exposures relative to individual consumers, and verify the ad.
We’ve also seen publishers such as YouTube and Facebook start to restrict access to user-level impression data. They’re keeping consumer privacy and security at the forefront, requiring partners to work behind their firewalls to integrate the touchpoint-level/person-level data and track that to an ad.
And so, as an industry, we have to grow up. Marketers can no longer rely upon being able to syphon data quickly from end distribution points across any browser, any device or any hardware platform.
2. Greater Focus on Identity
The world today has largely existed in a logged-out viewing stance, where we’ve tracked the impressions or cookies but we’re not always sure if it was a real viewer or consumer.
As we look at the world and the ecosystem moving forward, measurement is evolving to logged-in viewing by real people—not just device or cookie tracking—but authenticated viewing with authenticated users.
We know the ecosystem today is mixed. There are premium platforms such as Facebook and YouTube that have clear logged-in viewers. Certain TV assets can track logged-in registration data. Other websites have the ability to push for more logged-in browsing and viewing behavior. Even news sites such as the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and the New York Times require more logged-in browsing with their subscribers.
All of it allows us to ensure that we, as an industry, are trading on real authenticated browsing and viewing, real people seeing real ads. This allows us to measure behavior and find out if it’s driving real outcomes and changes in consumer behavior.
3. Re-Building Trust
The future of attribution is grounded in consumer trust and ensuring that attribution supports a real and tangible curated consumer experience. The foundation of that curation starts with privacy.
When we work with our partners, whether it is on the conversion side or the ad delivery side, we must retain the security and privacy of person-level data, behind walled gardens, and work with data in the proper manner to protect consumer information.
Nielsen, as a global media company, believes that the gold standard of consent is access to panelists who have opted in and who realize where and how their data is being used for the purpose of measurement.
Attribution must support the curation of the overall customer journey. One of the biggest values of attribution is minimizing the waste in the overall ecosystem. Instead of being spammed by 1,000 ads for a new product, advanced attribution can ensure that advertisers are investing responsibly in each impression and speaking to the right customer, with the right communication at the right frequency.
4. Drive for Comparability
Comparability is the foundation of measurement and what brand owners are demanding from attribution measurement. They want to be able to fairly compare their choices for reaching a consumer so that they can make the best decisions for their brand and finding their audiences.
Publishers also want comparability because they want to prove the value of their audiences and third-publisher validation is very powerful.
It starts with having holistic coverage across platforms, devices, and walled gardens that offers a unique view of viewership across all touchpoints. That’s the premise of attribution and the desire to understand all of the touchpoints.
For example, what led to my purchase of a new pair of running shoes from OnCloud? Brand owners want to know, “Where did Lana become aware of and learn about my product? Where did she engage with my brand? What contributed to that purchase? Was she exposed to an ad on Facebook when she was on her phone? Did she see an ad when she was reading the New York Times on her tablet or TMZ or Huff Post? Did she go to my site and sign up for the OnCloud Newsletter?
Having a view of each touchpoint across platforms, services and ad platforms is critically important to understanding what’s driving conversion. But that’s not all. You also need to de-duplicate each person and those ad experiences across the various devices I used in that journey—TV, mobile phone, laptop, and tablet.
One of the hardest parts of measurement is delivering a de-duplicated view of a person and all of their ad experiences that led to a conversion. Brands need to know a real person made a purchase on a website or in a store and be able to relate it back to the entire ad experience leading up to that.
We want to measure people and not cookies because we grow brands by engaging real people who love, adopt and engage in our brands, what they stand for and what they offer.
Comparability enables us to provide a new metric of exchange. Audiences have always been the volume metric that the industry has traded on and trades on today, providing a person-based view of measurement with holistic coverage across platforms, content, screens and services.
We see that metric evolving. When you think about the digital ecosystem, we’ve historically traded on impressions. However, the promise of attribution is the ability to trade not just on volume-based metrics such as impressions, but on value-based metrics or outcome-based metrics.
This allows us to stitch together several important elements: the value of an ad; the quality of the audience we deliver; the quality of that experience and that touchpoint; and, finally, how this actually leads to a converter. We can measure the interest of an engaged shopper versus an ad impression that has no relevance or engagement.
This is the promised efficiency of the digital, addressable ecosystem. Our ability to constantly refine and optimize buys on value based, quality-based metrics based on the benefit they deliver to the end buyer.
For the overall ecosystem, it means buyers and sellers can transact and make decisions on both metrics. It gives an advertiser transparency on the outcomes they deliver with each ad dollar spent.
It also allows agencies to build more efficient ad plans and deliver value to their clients. It allows publishers to differentiate on the engagement their platforms deliver and the quality of the ad unit, the quality of the audience and the value they deliver to their end buyers and the brands investing in their platforms.
The Future of an Industry
Attribution will only grow in importance as new platforms emerge and old platforms evolve. The future of the industry is grounded in trust with consumers—ensuring that attribution supports a tangible curated consumer experience.
By addressing tracking, trust, identity, and comparability, we have the ability to ensure that advertisers are investing responsibly in each impression to ensure they are speaking to the right customer with the right communication.
To learn how you can be a better marketer in the digital era, download our ebook: Untangling Attribution's Web of Confusion: A Primer for Marketers
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