Accelerating Attribution

Attribution, according to the CIMM Lexicon is “The reason that a prospective customer does what they do. More specifically, why they came to the site, entered the funnel, and performed a given action. (Source: Mediamath)” Accurate attribution would enable a marketer to get the correctly measured sequencing of consumer initiated events that influenced that consumer’s behavior. It is not an easy task.

CIMM recently hosted an attribution accelerator conference where speakers from such companies as Turner, CIMM, Nielsen, comScore, Time Inc., J&J, Citibank, Sequent Partners, AOL, Rubicon, Google, TubeMogul, Verizon and Samba TV presented their views on attribution. Where is attribution research today? How can we spur development to ensure existing models can keep up with demand as attribution moves beyond digital?

I sat down with Jim Spaeth, and Alice Sylvester, both Partners at Sequent Partners and asked them the following questions:

Charlene Weisler:  Please define attribution and the best forms of attribution 

Alice Sylvester: Attribution is the study of individual media tactics’ contribution to sales. The best forms of attribution do not use a priori models that pre-suppose the solution (first click, last click, W, U etc.).  The best forms of attribution incorporate other elements besides digital, at the household level. 

Charlene Weisler:  Tell me what your company is doing to track and measure attribution. 

Alice Sylvester: We have a number of projects going on – notably the Attribution Accelerator event, which will quicken the pace of innovation, fortify the science and galvanize the industry toward new attribution solutions. We also have a CIMM study of Attribution that will assess best practices and areas of improvement in cross-platform attribution.

Charlene Weisler:  Which existing models are doing the best job of attribution? 

Jim Spaeth: We don’t know — we will be looking to identify a best practice over the course of the next few days — we do know, however, that many of the existing models are insufficient given that they need to: reflect the fact that media has diminishing returns and adstock effects, that media has short and long term effects, that the media have interactions among them, that there is an effect of the brand (baseline), different responses by consumer segments and past purchasing behavior, and that different ads generate different responses. 

Alice Sylvester: The best job of attribution will address these issues.  Oh and then there is the issue of walled gardens and a significant portion of data from Google and FB not being generally available. 

Charlene Weisler:  How can you ensure that existing models keep up and move beyond digital. 

Alice Sylvester: The marketplace will definitely determine winners and losers – skepticism is creeping in among marketers who have had some experience with attribution.  

Jim Spaeth: There is a huge issue as to how to impute non-digital events on a digital data stream.

Alice Sylvester: There are issues with validation and the veracity of A/B test that have to be addressed in order to increase confidence in attribution.  And there are significant issues in device matching at the household which can be a source of significant error and in data matching across big datasets.  

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