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The Dawn of True Advertising Attribution Measurement?

June 6th, 2017   ||    by Charlene Weisler

Advertising attribution modeling is one of the biggest challenges in cross-platform advertising. Although there are several companies and organizations offering insight on the most effective form of attribution, the jury is still out on its overall use.

The Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM) recently released the findings of a study on attribution conducted by Sequent Partners, a brand and media metrics consultancy. Their main conclusion? As an industry, advertising has made some progress toward the development of an attribution model across media. But there’s still more work to do and—at least in the near term—there are few viable systems able to holistically capture cross-platform consumer behaviors.

Companies like 605 and comScore, however, are developing new approaches to attribution that could prove to be breakout solutions. Could this be the dawn of true advertising attribution measurement?

Facing the Challenges

There are many challenges involved in creating an attribution system that will be the industry standard. For digital, there needs to be access to log files that are often not shared by companies. And for non-digital channels like linear TV, the lack of a universal ID makes it difficult to properly track all the content touchpoints.

“The biggest challenge to full cross-channel attribution,” says Jane Clarke, CEO and managing director at CIMM, “is the accurate measurement of consumer and/or household identity to link all the media exposure datasets to purchasing datasets and/or other KPIs for marketing campaigns.” And there are other hard-to-measure considerations, from siloed datasets to touchpoints that are simply unmeasurable. For instance, did anything out of home influence the purchase decision? If so, was it word-of-mouth, an article in a newspaper, or a free sample received on the street?

“There is so much noise in the data as to what’s really influencing a sale—something as simple as how close a person lives to a retail location is a main driver of sales, but not accounted for in attribution,” says Ben Clarke (no relation to Jane Clarke), president at digital marketing agency The Shipyard.

Finding the Right Approach

Fortunately, companies like 605 and comScore are attempting to solve the attribution problem. Newly launched 605 advises clients on their marketing and advertising efforts by gathering viewing data from several sources into a nationalized footprint.

“As part of our campaign analytics services, 605 performs sales conversion and attribution analysis for clients’ television advertising campaigns—directly linking purchase activity to television ad exposure at the household level,” says Ben Tatta, president and co-founder of 605. Attribution analytics span media optimization, based on everything from ad response and optimal sales conversions, frequency optimization by audience segment, copy/offer testing based on sales conversions, and channel attribution based on response-level data—including sales, websites, and in-store traffic.

According to Jeff Boehme, SVP of television research at comScore, comScore has been attributing consumer values to audiences for some time, covering both digital and TV. He notes that comScore “has the largest and soon-to-expand return-path dataset—over 22 million households—with the required scale necessary to match with various consumer datasets such as Polk, Shopcom, and IRI.”

“This results in extremely reliable and statistically significant audience segments that identify real consumer media behavior,” says Boehme.

Following the Path to Attribution

While it’s good to know there are various approaches to advertising attribution, it will require the full commitment of the industry—from buyers and sellers—to agree on a standard solution (if such a solution is, in fact, possible). And this holds for TV advertisers as much as any other subset of the advertising space.

“It is in the best interest of media buyers and sellers alike to get involved in the process to ensure that the industry has options moving forward that truly serve our needs,” says Jane Clarke.

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