Marketing attribution is a complex topic that is difficult for advertisers, their agency partners and even the analyst community to understand. This is compounded by the rapid pace at which marketing technology evolves and further clouded by vendor hype.
Marketers find themselves cobbling together performance data from a variety of platforms and sources. Marketing teams frequently find themselves relying on multiple vendors simultaneously in an attempt to gain a bird’s eye view of results.
This is often because there’s a significant discrepancy in vendor capabilities. Each solution provides a different level of value based on its inherent features and the business objectives it’s attempting to solve. This makes choosing the right marketing measurement vendor a daunting task.
What is Marketing Attribution?
First, a simple definition. The objective of marketing attribution is to apply accurate credit to different marketing and/or advertising tactics. These tactics generally involve the execution of paid, earned or owned media across both online and offline marketing channels and increasingly involves multiple devices.
Some of these channels provide addressable touchpoints – which means vendors can track them at the user-level. Digital channels most frequently come to mind when discussing addressable marketing, but there are other offline channels that can also be tracked and recorded at a user level such as direct mail.
Other channels have non-addressable touchpoints, which means that they cannot be tied back to a specific user with complete certainty. For example, it is impossible to know when a specific user has been exposed to a magazine ad.
The landscape is becoming more addressable. This is due to advances in technology and new channels, such as streaming video, that allow tracking at the person level. Regardless of the touchpoint type, attribution involves the measurement of multiple marketing tactics in an effort to optimize those that are delivering the best results.
Choosing the Right Measurement Approach
When selecting a measurement solution, it is paramount that advertisers understand proven vendor capabilities in detail, discount the future capabilities promised by vendors, and take larger marketing trends into account.
Relying solely on the competing perspectives published by analysts, or tasking agencies to figure it out on their own, moves advertisers into dangerous territory in which single-vendor solutions may not deliver what they promise and ‘vendor hype’ is, once again, used to describe the state of attribution.
8 Dos and Don’ts For Choosing the Right Vendor
Let’s review eight key recommendations that advertisers should consider when selecting a marketing measurement solution provider.
1. Do Keep Your Hands on the Wheel
Many advertisers rely on their external agency partners to execute media buying and optimization tactics on their behalf, with little insight into what data and insights are being used to justify those investments. Advertisers must become active participants in selecting an attribution provider and developing the insights that drive better results for their business.
2. Don’t Compromise Accuracy
Holistic measurement solutions can be highly effective as long as granular marketing accuracy isn’t sacrificed. Using a single modeling approach, such as logistical regression across marketing mix modeling, TV attribution and multi-touch attribution, limits accurate measurement to the channel/sub-channel level and prohibits dimension-level optimization. Marketers should look for solutions that leverage the power of multiple modeling methodologies without compromising the accuracy or actionability of the insights produced.
3. Do Move at the Speed of Consumers
Speed matters in the digital era. Marketers’ ability to respond quickly to changing market conditions, competitive activities and consumer behavior are all keys to better performance, better customer experiences and better business results. Yet many marketers today are basing their decisions on data that doesn’t reflect the current state of the market. Sophisticated attribution vendors refresh and remodel data, so marketers can base their buying and optimization decisions on the most accurate and up-to-date metrics.
4. Don’t Overlook In-House Expertise
Similar to website analytics, some attribution solutions are now available as self-service models using a SaaS approach, augmented by vendor implementation and consulting services. This means that advertisers and their agency partners can become certified on vendor capabilities and develop their own attribution practice without involving data scientists or vendor consulting services.
5. Do Ramp Up for OTT TV
The digital and mobile marketing worlds are becoming increasingly programmatic as non-addressable channels such as TV move in the same direction. One of the most promising new channels for advertising is over-the-top (OTT) TV. This allows the measurement of TV as a true addressable channel. The drive to programmatic creates an opportunity to distribute attributed metrics directly into programmatic platforms for tactical optimization. Industry partners are ramping up OTT measurement solutions. Build your in-house skill set to prepare.
6. Don’t Treat All Data the Same Way
Today, large user-level data sources are allowing a subset of media-agnostic attribution vendors to measure and optimize user-level impression data for all consumers (not just converters) at the user ID level. Since data is passed to some vendors at the user-level, they are able to sync unique IDs, offering a more accurate, complete, people-based view of the consumer journey. Other vendors use summary-level data to provide a marketing mix modeling approach. Since coverage gaps create blindspots in the consumer journey, it is important to understand the nuances of each model.
7. Do Unify and Enrich Audience Data
Understanding audience performance no longer needs to happen separately from cross-channel marketing performance. Sophisticated attribution vendors now have the ability to sync with first- and third-party data sources (i.e. data management platforms (DMPs) and customer relationship management (CRM) systems) to allow advertisers to understand marketing performance by audience segment.
8. Don’t Just Measure, Optimize
Finally, advertisers should not think of attribution purely as a measurement issue. Marketing is measured so it can be optimized to drive better results. Sophisticated advertisers use attribution to optimize their marketing tactics at varying degrees of granularity to drive the online and offline success metrics they care about most. This requires that attribution vendors provide a frequent modeling cadence, real-time bidding (RTB) platform integrations and robust scenario planning capabilities that support that objective.
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
Request a Demo
Learn how Nielsen can help you measure and optimize your marketing and advertising: Request a demo today
Subscribe to Our Blog
Get news and information in your inbox every month: Subscribe