Attribution adoption starts now

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Roger Barnette, IgnitionOne
Roger Barnette, IgnitionOne

It's been a few years since "engagement mapping" aka "attribution" emerged as the next big thing in online advertising. The concept of looking across digital channels and beyond the last click made sense to everyone. Brands, agencies and media vendors heralded the industry's recognition that "last-click wins" is insufficient for measuring performance of online media throughout the conversion funnel. 


Attribution offers a more accurate view into the performance of each channel, vendor, placement and keyword. Thus, marketers can optimize spend, reduce waste and maximize ROI. Yet, very few marketers are using attribution to measure and optimize media spending. This is all about to change due to numerous factors:


The maturation of paid search is one. Most major brands have optimized SEM efforts to maximize share of voice at the bottom of the funnel. For the biggest advertisers to grow search share, and the revenue they derive, they need to create more demand. Attribution can help see which keywords assist in the decision-making process, but may not be the last ad a consumer sees before converting.


The resurgence of display advertising is another factor. Advertisers are now investing in creating awareness, consideration and preference through digital advertising. Display is on track to grow faster than search this year.


The focus on accountability also plays a role. Brands are keeping a close eye on ROI from brand-building media such as Facebook. To measure ROI and understand how they measure up against traditional online advertising, new tools and techniques are needed.


Upgrades in Web architecture enabling advanced analytics will also drive adoption. As evidenced by IBM and Oracle's recent acquisitions of marketing technology firms, the convergence of IT and marketing is expected to reach a new level. New platforms using a Universal Tag and sophisticated code ease cross-channel tracking and opens the door for advanced media measurement.


Finally, more practical attribution solutions will emerge. Stand-alone attribution providers offer measurement, but not integrated with a media buying platform to make the insights actionable. As a result, these solutions are somewhat expensive. A new breed of integrated, single-dashboard solution companies are emerging to offer attribution coupled with media optimization and even website conversion tools, improving the effectiveness of attribution, while making it affordable.


There are enough success stories to sell its value. One marketer saw their cost-per-click on search and display decrease 14%, while their ROI from these channels increased 54%. Marketers should ask not what attribution will cost, but what they stand to lose if they don't put a system in place.

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