One of the best ways to learn something is from someone who’s been in your situation. This is true for marketers learning how to measure their marketing effectiveness.
Many companies are turning to multi-touch attribution (MTA) for actionable insights. This approach analyzes user-level data to assign fractional credit to every touchpoint on the customer journey. While this approach has huge benefits over traditional measurement approaches, the learning curve can be steep.
To help marketers learn more about how to implement MTA successfully, the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) Cross-Platform Measurement Council recently invited marketing executives from Coca Cola, Johnson & Johnson and Miller Coors to share their experiences.
The MTA: Marketers Talk Attribution event, led by MTA expert Alice Sylvester of Sequent Partners, focused on how these leading CPG brands have evolved people, processes and technology to achieve their goals. It was a rare opportunity to hear directly from seasoned marketers about the keys to making attribution work.
Speakers included Igor Levin, Senior Director, Global Lead – Analytics for Precision Marketing and Data Science, at Johnson & Johnson; Greg Pharo, Global Director, Media Analytics & Advertising Research, The Coca-Cola Company; and Bill Cramblit, Media Analytics and Optimization Manager, MillerCoors. Here are the highlights of the discussion.
Alice Sylvester (Moderator): What language should the industry adopt to describe attribution so we all know what we’re talking about?
Greg Pharo (Coca-Cola): The term attribution can mean many different things to many different people. In some cases it refers to last touch attribution. In some cases, people think it means algorithmically driven or fractional attribution. Very broadly speaking, when we talk about attribution today, we are talking about multi-touch. It’s important to understand what exactly goes into that witches brew. What particular media or consumer touchpoints are in and what’s out? What outcomes are you trying to measure? Is it a unified, holistic approach or more tactical, focused on one type of media?
Bill Cramblit (MillerCoors): We focus more on the outcome of the process than the name. We’re trying to make the best use of our media dollars and make every dollar work harder. Fundamentally, MTA has to be done at the most granular level possible - either household or consumer - and in an algorithmic way. Otherwise it’s not really multi-touch.
Alice: What role does attribution have at your company and has it supplanted other tools?
Greg: Mix modeling has not gone away for us and I don’t see it going away anytime in the near future. Attribution is a way to be able to answer questions faster with greater granularity and greater precision than was possible with mix modeling. It’s very useful as one of the tools that we have in our ROI and insights toolkit. The other tools can better answer longer term questions about the efficacy of our media spend.
Bill: We have a handful of core tools. Mix is a major one. It helps us identify the major goals moving forward. It’s good for the big picture. MTA is different. It’s granular and focused on fast moving swim lanes. We use other ad and creative measurement methodologies as well. I see a future where all three come together into a single source.
Igor Levin (J & J): Over time, I think MTA will be able to address more and more of our addressable buckets and mix will become less important.
Alice: What do you think about the move to integrate market-level and individual-level data into one model?
Bill: We want to move to a unified model but the jury is still out how this will be done.
Greg: Unified measurement is something we’re all hoping for it but we have to be realistic regarding how we get there. There’s still a way to go before we’re comfortable.
Alice: How did attribution gain credibility in your company?
Greg: With our vendor, there was a lot of selling into the C-suite. They heard, “Attribution’s going to replace everything. Attribution’s going to rule the world” It’s easier to bring in if someone’s already sold it for you. If your company is comfortable with analytical rigor and has a good process in place, like marketing mix modeling, it’s much simpler to bring attribution in.
Bill: At my company, people didn’t understand what attribution was or what to expect from it. We had to do a road show, what it looked like and why it mattered, and explain how we were going to use it to grow these brands and drive more value out of our dollars.
Igor: It was a two-step process. The level of detail from mix doesn’t provide enough input to the decision-making process. There was a massive gap in our capabilities. MTA was the solution and we felt it was critical to move forward. It required a lot of effort and massive changes. It requires understanding the consumer touchpoints and rethinking your media. At J&J you have to show results. We did a road show, brand by brand, to show what could be achieved and then we were able to scale the solution. We used it to justify our investment in digital media.
Alice: Historically, setting goals for marketing mix modeling was an annual event and you would get answers six months later. How do you manage the cadence of MTA?
Greg: One of the big advantages of MTA is the cadence. One of the nice things about MTA is the ability to do in-flight optimizations that are very tricky with mix modeling. Another is the absolute speed that MTA delivers. An added benefit is greater granularity, which you’re not able to get out of mix modeling. It’s able to inform different types of decisions, far more tactical decisions.
Alice: There is no industry-wide public validation of attribution techniques. Do we know enough about these techniques to be confident in them?
Greg: I think we’re getting there. In the past, the lack of industry standards has caused me a lot of heartburn. There are core questions that attribution raises. How do you account for cross-media synergies? Or for media not included in an attribution model? Industry accepted best practices guidelines would make things better.
Igor: If you want to look forward, you need to feel comfortable with some ambiguity. Not all the data is perfect. You have to feel comfortable using some assumptions. There are issues but they are getting better. Marketing mix has been around since the 50s and it still has issues. Smart people are working on it.
Alice: How did you bring other parts of the organization into the attribution fold?
Bill: For the road show, it was important to communicate that we’re pioneering new methodology. No one else in our industry is doing it the way we’re doing it. You have to tailor the information to what different parts of the organization care about. For example, the analytics team and the marketing team want something very different.
Alice: Is the bottom-line the answer to adoption?
Igor: It’s important to focus on the money. And how different MTA is. For the first time we can see what percent of our media is working and which is not. There is so much potential. Your ability to optimize is dimensionally different than what we had before. How do I get more of it?
Alice: Why do all three of you use third-party providers?
Greg: We rely on third-parties to provide data off sales. We in the CPG space don’t have perfect information that other companies do. It’s good for us to work with third-parties that are able to help us address those issues.
Bill: It’s difficult to get transparency into who is purchasing our product. That’s why we work with third parties.
Igor: There are capabilities that are important to us that third parties can provide. Also, we’re going to need to overcome our challenges with walled gardens. To unlock them, we need a strong, independent third party measurement entity that walled gardens trust to work inside their walls. I don’t think they would provide data to advertisers or publishers but third parties have a shot at it. There are multiple benefits to working with a partner.
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