Unravelling the mysteries of media attribution

The Mysterious World of Media Attribution:  what it is and why you should embrace it

In 1929, John Wanamaker, one of the earliest US proponents of advertising and marketing, said: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” Sometimes it seems as if little has changed. Despite decades of technological advancements, the explosion of digital and more people living (and purchasing)  in a multi-screen, multi-channel world, there is still little tracking or measurement of a customer’s online interactions and activities which may (finally) result in a purchase. And this is despite the technology being available for almost a decade to enable practitioners to see how different channels affect behaviour and therefore how to assign a value to them as part of a marketing campaign. Enter media attribution, a statistical model that can help make the task of measurement much simpler and therefore the decision-making on digital campaigns much more informed. Everyone in marketing talks about media attribution.  And CMOs are well aware that it’s an area that demands their attention but adoption is not always easy and can be a real challenge, for a number of reasons. Many CMOs are ready to dip their toe in the water but need help navigating the different attribution models available as well as help in gaining the confidence needed to often instigate a change in mindset within their organization that comes with a better understanding of attribution and how it can really benefit a company’s bottom line.

Most CMOs still rely on ‘last click’ media attribution models, even though they know that this method ignores the entire decision-making funnel, simply because they don’t know how to move beyond it. There are reasons for this, some of which are revealed in a recent Adobe Digital Directions Report which found that the main challenges faced by CMOs in executing digital campaigns included budget limitations (50% of respondents) and limited capabilities, knowledge and experience (47%). In addition, and probably due partly to budget constraints but also often company culture, marketers aren’t given the freedom to fail – essential when there is no ‘one size fits all’ attribution model and to get the best out of any campaign measurement takes constant refinement and iteration. Much easier is to continue to doggedly use a measurement model that, whilst it ignores customer behaviour, simplifies the media buy.

But consider this. Multi-screen/cross-device usage is higher in Asia than anywhere else in the world. A recent Nielsen Southeast Asia Digital Consumer Report, which examined the digital media habits and attitudes of Southeast Asian consumers, revealed that Singaporean digital consumers were the heaviest internet users in the region, averaging 25 hours online per week, followed closely by digital consumers in the Philippines and Malaysia who averaged 21.5 hours and 19.8 hours online per week. A recently released 2014 AdReaction Report from Millward Brown shows that multiscreen users in the Asia Pacific region consume seven hours of screen media per day in a five hour period. This is mostly on their smartphones, ahead on all digital channels on the global averages, except TV.

So there you have it. Millions of people, potential consumers of your product, online, always switched on. And yet, the complexity of the digital space and customer behaviour within it, coupled with internal pressures to get it right first time sees many CMOs just too nervous to risk  trying another approach. The result of this mindset however is that accurately assigning a digital marketing budget (which  79% of CMOs are looking to increase this year, according to CMO Council Asia Pacific) becomes a complete shot in the dark.

Adoption of multi-media attribution models which can measure micro conversions and therefore help you to understand the role each activity plays in getting to the ‘macro conversion’ or purchase means you can then accurately attribute value and budget. Common sense, right? So why aren’t more CMOs taking that step? Any topic involving the words ‘digital’, ‘multi-channel’ and ‘data’, can strike fear into the hearts of many a marketer and with budgets always being scrutinised and squeezed, it’s no wonder that many avoid making what they perceive would be complex, risky and above all, expensive changes. But that’s not the reality.

Firstly, we’re not talking about making big sweeping changes. Step by step experimentation and testing is key to successful media attribution in a multi-channel environment, given the shifting nature of digital. Unfortunately the good old days when marketing used to be simple, where you could push your messages out to people through the right combination of repetition, are long gone. So it doesn’t make sense to make big scale changes when the digital landscape is changing every day.

We’re also not talking about expensive changes. Multi-touch attribution is no longer a technology only for those with mega budgets. Most publishers and many platforms provide metrics which enable you to evaluate effectiveness beyond last- click. Affordable technologies now also exist that allow marketers to evaluate performance beyond the last-click.

The fear of the unknown is also a barrier to change so seek help from experts who have the technical know-how to be able to pinpoint and analyse your customer data, and who can then work with you to turn that analysis into real and measurable changes you can make to your marketing strategy by helping you identify the points in the online customer journey which require attention or investment.

Picture this. Imagine being able to know why you spend a certain amount of your budget on a particular  digital channel or medium and what the implications are if you don’t? And imagine understanding the influence every channel has on your customer’s purchase-making decisions and that by just tweaking a few variables, you can influence that decision-making and therefore your bottom line, literally overnight? Don’t you think it’s worth taking that step into the unknown for benefits this great?

Aleetza Senn

Managing Partner & Co-Founder


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