6 Nielsen Experts on the Future of Attribution

April 24, 2019 Ginna Hall

Are you ready for measurement in the digital era? Today’s longer customer journeys have more touchpoints and produce even more data fragmentation.

The average marketer doesn’t have the ability to consolidate disparate data sets to understand the influence of interactions across digital and traditional channels. Analyzing marketing effectiveness is arduous as many marketers struggle to get accurate and actionable results.

Given this environment, how can you prepare for an increasingly complex customer journey? We asked six Nielsen experts to weigh in on one of the toughest challenges facing marketers today. Read on to get insights, strategies and tactics for marketers in 2019 and beyond.

Matt Krepsik, Global Head, Analytics Product Leadership

The world is evolving and maturing. The history of attribution was around very simple cookie and pixel tracking—counting of the number of exposures that were created, regardless of whether they were exposed to a person, a bot or a webpage.

We know today that roughly 40 to 50% of all impressions are not real. We live in the digital ecosystem where the promise of addressable advertising one-to-one, solving the Wannamaker problem of which half of my advertising is wasted, still persists.

We need to look at the data to learn how to become more intelligent. I see the world pivoting from capturing all the data to capturing the right bits of data and making that data smart. That’s the major innovation. The promise that attribution brought to the industry is still one we hold to.

It’s incredibly important to capture the full journey, every touchpoint to the last click, and include those touchpoints deterministically. It’s not about consuming every bit of data, but consuming the right data and having the ability to identify when things are working.

It’s not a world where perfection exists. When you can focus on areas where you can drive improvement, you’ll find that your ads are more effective. With advertisers that blend deterministic audiences in segment creation, the ROI for those segments is often 5 to 10x of an average ad.


Lana Busignani, EVP, US Analytics

In terms of understanding the consumer journey, there’s a lot that marketers are trying to tackle. Marketers are realizing that they don’t have all of the data they need to tell a full story about their consumer.

Because they realize they don’t have a full picture, they have to rely on different data sources. Marketers need the ability to pull together these sources and link them in a way that makes sense.

But to enable different sources to come together, you need to have the glue that connects information from one data set to another. This means that marketers don’t have everything in-house. They have to rely on different players for pulling that together and partners to help them do it in an accurate way. All of that big data spells opportunity but it’s a lot harder than everyone realizes to use it effectively and accurately.

There are other things that marketers can do to understand consumer journeys. They can look at how their organizations drive and support various media channels. They can pull their teams together and not have silos with different people responsible for different parts of the consumer journey.

If everyone’s only measuring what they do, that creates an imperfect and incomplete picture for the organization. Who is tying all that together and who is setting the priorities for the greater good, instead of each individual pillar? As the ecosystem evolves, think about how you are adapting your organizational structure to better reflect the customer journey.


Ben Samuel, Vice President, EMEA Sales

As you get longer journeys and more devices, all of that adds up to more touchpoints on a path to a purchase or conversion. This makes the case for last-touch attribution even weaker and the case for multi-touch attribution even stronger.

As you get more touchpoints, the idea that you just use that final touchpoint to base all your decisions on becomes even more risky. That last touchpoint represents a smaller proportion of the overall number of touchpoints. You’re making decisions based on an even smaller sample size and will make worse and worse decisions.

The challenge with customer journeys is that a lot of it ties back to ID resolution. Being able to identify the customer is becoming more difficult. If you don’t have cookies and you have multiple devices, ID resolution becomes very difficult. Do you have a system in place that will allow you to manage that?

You can’t control or predict where a consumer will next potentially engage with your media. You can target certain groups but you can’t create a linear customer journey. In the end, it’s not about the journey. Rather than trying to do the impossible, which is to insert specific ads or force ads into their journey at certain points, focus on optimizing your overall media mix to drive against your KPIs.




Andrea Lipstein, SVP, Product Marketing

What marketers need to make sure of when they are looking at measurement strategies and measurement providers is that their measurement is person-based.

Given all of these devices and different ways to link people, it’s not about just understanding how many devices are being used. It’s really making sure you know the link between the person and all the devices they’re using so that you can understand in a deduplicated way the behavior that one person has.

Making sure you have measurement across the walled gardens is essential. We’re in a situation where very big digital and media companies have a lot of data and a lot of metrics. They’re using data and metrics to tell really good stories about their own brands and their own audiences.

For marketers advertising on all or many of these channels, it’s important to have an independent body that is grading all of these companies on an even playing field so that you can make an apples-to-apples comparison.

If you have metrics from one company and metrics from another company side-by-side, you’re not going to understand the trade-offs or if they are measuring things the same way. But if you have an independent third party that is measuring everything in the same way, with all of the same inputs, you can understand what taking from one and giving to another means.


Joshua Kowal, SVP, Consulting Services

From my perspective, given how complex the journey is and how many more touchpoints there are, measurement and getting as granular data as possible are key. Granular measurement will lead to more precision and actionability across all those touchpoints along the journey.

Multi-touch attribution is expanding coverage as much as possible at the speed that these ever-changing journeys require. This also means that other analytics that are not as sophisticated in using person-level data need to go by the wayside.

Given all the touchpoints and how complex the journey is, there’s no reason for last touch to exist. It leads to wrong decisions and a lot of waste across your marketing plan. Even when person-level data is not available, you still need to be measuring all the touchpoints consumers are seeing these days.

This includes digital and traditional tactics such as Out Of Home and TV, but also other ways people are interacting such as social interactions on Snapchat and paid social on Instagram.

Influencer marketing is also really important right now. Brands are using influencers with increasing regularity. You need to be able to measure when an influencer is talking about your brand and, when there’s a lot of engagement and exposures happening, what the lift in the short and medium run is.

There’s going to be a big difference based on what category you’re in or what type of influencer, but whether it’s a micro influencer or a large one, you need to be able to measure that in terms of lift and ROI.


Andy Dubickas, VP, Global Solutions Consulting

The first thing that comes to mind is the importance and usefulness of customer level data. Customer level data is becoming more protected and there is going to be less of it available. Brands need to figure out: how can I get my hands on this incredibly important data and use it to my advantage? It’s becoming harder to do so.

From a data and analytics perspective, it’s meaningful and important for advertisers to diversify their data strategy.

When I talk to marketers about this, I recommend that they don’t limit themselves to one data provider or one partner. There are a ton of vendors that can provide you with interesting data and help you to organize that data in a meaningful way. I encourage people not to think about a single-thread strategy but a multi-tenant strategy where they can take advantage and have partnerships and data access with best-of-breed providers.

Learn More

Download our ebook to cut through the hype and learn the differences between key measurement approaches: Untangling Attribution’s Web of Confusion: A Primer for Marketers

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