Everyone in our industry is looking for a better solution than the hoary old ‘last click wins’ payment model. Advertisers want the ability to measure their customers’ complete purchase journey and networks and publishers want to be able to prove the wider reaching value that they know that they provide.

Yet, while the industry should of course continue to explore and pioneer new systems, such as eBay’s Quality Click model or AgencyDMGs ‘Digital Brain’, we shouldn’t take our eye off the last click ball. 

We’ve seen what shrinking marketing budgets and the pressure to shift more volume for less can do. Just ask Orange, T-Mobile and the content owners at Onlyfights.com.

However, touch wood, thanks to heavy auditing from bodies such as IASH and widespread industry back lash, examples of ad misplacement are now few and far between. The budgetary pressure is still being applied though and, like those networks who sought to buy unchecked inventory, there is a growing risk that the last click model could be similarly abused.

Just type the words ‘cookie stuffing’ into Google and you’ll see what I mean. There are numerous blogs by numerous, usually self-styled, marketing ‘gurus’ gleefully explaining and extolling the virtues of hijacking users’ PCs, without their knowledge, and overwriting other cookies to gain fraudulent commissions.

Telling people how to 'have their cookies and eat them', if you will. At the same time, reports from researchers such as the UC Berkley School of Law and privacy groups are warning against flash cookies, still largely unknown to the public, which can’t be deleted and can potentially regenerate deleted HTTP cookies.

If these practices were to happen and be exposed (you can just imagine the Daily Mail headlines!) what would the implication be for those networks and agencies that are performing perfectly honestly?

Our industry has enough to contend with without a ‘big brother’ scandal. There are plenty who do not believe in a self-regulatory model and call for over arching and inflexible legislation. Any suggestion that the industry was not behaving responsibly would only serve to add further ammunition to this argument.

The argument that’s forever levelled against the last click model is, of course, that a customer could visit 15 or 20 different sites before they ever make a purchase and is it fair to reward the last one? Fair or otherwise, the reality is that until there is a better system and proven tracking technologies, campaigns will continue be judged, budgets allocated and plans made according to these metrics. Imperfect as it may be then, it is vital that the industry works together to promote and enforce high standards in reporting and ad serving. 

If the reputation of online advertising is tarnished, we will inevitably see the search agencies, affiliates and voucher code world rush to take advantage. 

‘Last click wins’ is clearly not perfect but if we allow it to be abused there will be a very simple outcome: nobody wins. 

Harvey Sarjant

Published 8 October, 2009 by Harvey Sarjant

Harvey Sarjant is managing partner at Addvantage Media and a guest blogger at Econsultancy.

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Comments (1)

Vincent Amari

Vincent Amari, Online Consultancy at Business Foresights Ltd

I would personally like to see Google improve their cookie code so that it includes not only last click referrer to our sites, but also previous. This could be a variable we can set in GA to say last N referrers?

I would set this N to somewhere between 5 - 10 myself as I'd like to know if a visitor that converted into a lead and shows as organic search for my company name had previously clicked a PPC ad or/and from an email campaign etc.

Any thoughts?

almost 9 years ago

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