Blog Post

Advances in Advertising Attribution: What You Need to Know

11/05/2019 - Sierra Ducey

Guest Author: Wes Farris, Product Strategy

Attribution across different marketing channels continues to be an evasive and near-impossible challenge for marketers to solve. Technology platforms have emerged with solutions guaranteeing a full view of a person’s journey from awareness, consideration, and purchase intent across all channels. 

However, in practice, tracking across digital-only channels such as search, social, display, OTT, audio, digital OOH is much messier. Powerful publishers like Facebook, Twitter, and Google limit (or entirely block) data from marketers – many who argue is rightfully owned by the marketer. Also, with more privacy guardrails being put in place and the life of a cookie growing shorter, it is very challenging to successfully track a person across a digital ecosystem that can include thousands of IDs for just a single user. This is without bringing in offline marketing channels like TV, broadcast radio, print, and more, making proper attribution even more challenging. 


Cookies Aren’t Always the Answer

While technology/cookie-based platforms can’t answer all pieces of the puzzle, they can be excellent guides and optimization tools at driving media efficiency in ongoing and future campaigns. Technology platforms that rely on an anonymous or cookie ID will be limited in capturing only a portion of all online conversions and struggle to incorporate any offline media or media outside of paid media such as word of mouth or earned media. However, the data captured will be extremely valuable in helping a marketer understand channel efficiency and multi-touch attribution.

By properly tagging inputs across various platforms such as Adwords, Facebook Business Manager, ad servers, DSPs, email, Bing, or any search/social platform, a consolidated and multi-touch attributable view of the user is possible. Instead of having to rely on each platform’s reporting or trying to understand how to de-dupe conversions across platforms, a multi-touch model can be created. 

With this view, marketers can look at their target audience’s engagement with different siloed marketing channels to the point of purchase or KPI. More advanced attribution models, such as a positional or time-decay model can be measured instead of the more traditional last click. Marketers can start to understand if one paid marketing effort is influencing another or if dollars are being wasted across otherwise siloed campaigns. 

Opportunity outweighs limitations

Facebook will only share click level data and a sample of their impression data. The impression data is limited to a handful of select partners. In other social platforms, a marketer will only be able to get their hands on click level data. This will tell a part of the story but miss those that saw the ad but did not click. Display and programmatic are one of the few channels where you can get the granular view of the customer journey that is required for multi-touch attribution. Browsers such as Safari are limiting cookies and more prevalent browsers like Chrome are considering limiting third-party cookies as well. Issues like this will only make accurate tracking against an anonymous ID more difficult. 

If marketers understand these limitations, multi-touch attribution can be a great tool in a marketer’s tool chest to understand channel contribution and drive incrementality. Once a marketer has identified the channels to run media campaigns against, these solutions can drive significant media efficiency.

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