Read this primer on differing analyst perspectives and what you need to know to make informed choices
After more than a decade since the first marketing attribution offering appeared in the marketplace, advertisers, analysts and vendors can’t seem to agree on a common definition. Some of the confusion may be due to the complexity of the subject matter or, if you’re a conspiracy theorist, the result of deep rooted agendas set by those involved in media buying/planning with millions of dollars at stake.
Whatever the cause, the industry is more confused today than ever before. One doesn’t need to look further than the recent reports published by Gartner and Forrester Research (both available on our website) to find examples of competing perspectives that leave the industry confused.
Untangling Attribution’s Web of Confusion: A Primer for Marketers shines a light on Forrester’s perspective that the marketing measurement and optimization industry has morphed into a new category called Unified Marketing Impact Analytics (UMIA) that combines significant strategic consulting services with software, and Gartner’s view that multi-touch, algorithmic attribution and marketing mix modeling are still two very distinct disciplines that though integrated, rely first and foremost on software. In an effort to eliminate this confusion, Visual IQ has provided additional details to cut through the hype, expose the pros and cons of the different attribution approaches available, and take one step closer to defining attribution for the industry.
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First 3 Pages
Revealing Marketing Truth
Untangling Attribution's Web of Confusion:
A Primer for Marketers
“To regard as arising from a particular cause or source” –that’s how attribution is defined in the dictionary. Yet, after more than a decade since the first offering appeared in the
marketplace, advertisers, analysts and vendors can’t seem to agree on a common definition for the purposes of marketing.
Some of the confusion may be due to the complexity of the subject matter or, if you’re a conspiracy theorist, the result of deep rooted agendas set by those involved in media buying/planning with millions of dollars at stake. Whatever the cause, the industry is more confused today than ever before. One doesn’t need to look further than the recent publications released by Gartner and Forrester Research to find basic examples of
competing perspectives that leave the industry confused.
Let’s first look at Gartner’s perspective as defined within their Market Guide for Attribution and Marketing Mix Modeling, where they recognize multi-touch attribution (MTA) and marketing mix modeling (MMM) as completely separate – but potentially integrated – marketing endeavors. Importantly, in distinguishing between technology providers and consulting firms, Gartner successfully uncovers that the bulk of marketing mix modeling today is purely a consulting, service-based exercise. Vendors claiming to have a viable software product for MMM are, in fact, just publishing the results of their consulting efforts into a technology interface no faster than monthly – hardly the speed required by marketers to gain any substantive benefit, but such is the nature of the media strategies that are measured by MMM: broadcast, TV, OOH and print as examples.
Gartner identifies that MTA is focused on addressable media at the user level, but largely isolates that user-level media to digital only. They suggest that “MTA is most useful when a marketer has user-level data for both the media and the goal. For example, when most of the media is digital and the sale happens in a digital channel or offline channel, that eventually can be directly and decisively tracked to a user and her/his activity. On the
other hand, MMM is most useful when user-level information is not readily available for the media and/or the sale, such as retailers and car companies whose media is both digital and offline (e.g. TV and print) and whose sales happen offline”1. Gartner further states that, “Increasingly, marketing leaders use both methods — either in parallel or unified within the same platform — to expand the scope and precision of their measurement.”.
One doesn’t need to look further than the recent publications released by Gartner and Forrester Research to find basic examples of competing perspectives that leave the industry confused.
In contrast, the Forrester Wave™: Marketing Measurement And Optimization Solutions, Q4 2016 no longer covers attribution by name – as it has in the past – and instead focuses on the evaluation of “Marketing Measurement and Optimization” vendors attempting to create a new category called unified marketing impact analytics (UMIA). The criteria
used for evaluating such vendors dramatically changed from previous reports on the topic of attribution due to Forrester’s fundamental belief that vendors should have the ability to provide MTA and MMM using a single modeling approach. According to Forrester, “We have also seen that top-down techniques like marketing mix modeling and bottom-up approaches such as digital attribution share similar mathematical and
statistical methodologies, encouraging measurement firms to test ways to combine them into a single technique Forrester calls unified marketing impact analytics (UMIA)”
. Forrester’s view is based on the assumption that a single model can be used to effectively measure and optimize both addressable and non-addressable channels while providing a ‘
people-based’ data architecture.
The Forrester Wave™: Marketing Measurement And Optimization Solutions, Q4 2016, Forrester Research, October 11, 2016
Attribution’s Web of Confusion: A Primer for Marketers
Most of the industry defines the de-duplication of users across multiple devices (desktop, mobile etc.) as ‘people-based’. This definition generally gets expanded to mean the ability to establish a unique user identifier (UID) that can be used to sync with multiple data sources. However, Forrester’s definition involves the association of all data down to the
customer level even though the exposure of a given advertiser’s marketing and/or media is not independently tracked at the individual user level, nor can it be applied at scale. Further, unlike Gartner’s view, Forrester’s Wave report does not delineate between technology providers and services providers, further blurring the lines between what marketers can expect to solve via technology, and what needs require a heavy dose of consulting services.
If leading industry analysts, investing months of research into the topic of attribution, release contradicting reports on approaches and associated capabilities, it should come as no surprise that the larger marketplace is having difficulty understanding vendor capabilities and mapping them to their business problems to drive meaningful results.
In an effort to eliminate this confusion, Visual IQ has provided additional details below to cut through the hype, expose the pros and cons of the different attribution approaches available, and take one step closer to defining attribution for the industry.
Marketing Attribution Approaches
The objective of marketing attribution is to apply accurate credit to different marketing and/or advertising tactics. Such tactics generally involve the execution of paid, earned or owned media across both online and offline marketing channels and increasingly involves multiple devices. Some of these channels provide addressable touchpoints – which means
vendors are able to track them at the user-level. Digital channels most frequently come to mind when discussing addressable marketing, but there are other offline channels that can also be tracked and recorded at a user level. Other channels contain non-addressable touchpoints, which means that they cannot be tied back to a specific user with complete
certainty. For example, it is impossible to know when a specific user has been exposed to a magazine ad. Regardless of the touchpoint type, attribution involves the measurement of multiple marketing tactics in an effort to optimize those that are delivering the best results.
Levels of Granularity
It is important to understand that marketing and advertising tactics have different levels of granularity and that different attribution approaches have varying degrees of
sophistication. For example, understanding yesterday’s top performing display ad size for your business using in-store sales as your key performance indicator (KPI) is very different from attempting to understand the impact of each of your channels on a
quarterly basis using total sales as your KPI. This is the reason why multiple attribution approaches exist and are utilized today.
The questions that these approaches answer tend to differ dramatically. As pointed out by Gartner, sophisticated advertisers use these approaches in combination to increase accuracy and maximize results.