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Brands will dramatically reallocate their digital ad budgets this year as they move away from the traditional last-click-wins approach to attribution as more accurate models gain ground.
According to advertising body ISBA’s annual Digital Action Group survey, released this week, measurement, in particular attribution, is a top priority for brands this year as they look to reward online channels more accurately.
Brands such as British Airways, John Lewis and Sony are following the lead of others, including Boden and Virgin Atlantic, to reassess the influence of each stage of the consumer buying process.
Attribution is presenting marketers with a whole new set of challenges. Its complexity and statistical analysis requires an entirely new skillset.
What’s more, it won’t stop after online marketing. Next will be the development of models that pull in mobile and web TV. The convergence of media is a reality, not a possibility, and if you’re not already working on attribution, then now is the time.
If you don’t start, you’ll find yourself with an even greater headache when mobile and web TV become mainstream ways to reach consumers.
Alex Tait, head of ISBA’s Digital Action Group and head of digital marketing at the Post Office, said the advancement of tracking technology has meant that the number of advertisers looking beyond the last click has now reached a tipping point.
“More than ever, advertisers are realising that rewarding just the provider of the last click doesn’t make a lot of sense,” he said. “As digital channels have matured, from being the converter to a way of reaching new audiences, this older world of direct response is colliding with other media and calls for a more holistic way of understanding the customer’s journey.”
Global clothing etailer Boden is looking to introduce by the end of the year a ‘fractional’ attribution model that weights rewards according to the influence of the channel. Oliver Elliott, Boden’s online acquisition manager, said it’s working out the role of display advertising, specifically the value of a post-impression compared to a post-click action.
“We’re currently working out how to include as many other marketing and customer interactions as we can measure,” he said. “Other components include on-site interactions, social interactions, customer purchase and direct marketing history.”
Virgin Atlantic, which in January began tracking its online activity to develop a ‘best click’ attribution model, is also looking at re-evaluating its rewards model to give greater credit to display, as well as reconsidering the rewards it apportions to retargeting (nma 27 January 2011).
Its head of marketing systems Allison Wightman said, “We’re starting to understand what a move from a last-click model might look like. If you look at the pure results, we would have given up on display a long time ago. It’s easy to cut because it’s not that cheap, but we’re seeing that it does have a role to play.”
Virgin Atlantic is also reconsidering the credit given to retargeted display advertising as a result of the granularity of current analytics. It’s looking at customer conversion paths in more detail to distinguish the difference in influence of standard display ads and retargeted ads.
“This will help decide what part retargeting plays,” Wightman said. “We can see normal display and retargeted display separately within [online tracking system] Tagman so it’s a good granular level of detail from which to determine success.”
Brands including American Express, British Airways and Sony, which are working with agency Neo@Ogilvy on attribution programmes, have found quality news sites such as The Telegraph and The Independent are playing a greater role in the customer journey than is currently credited.
According to Neo@Ogilvy MD Richard Wheaton, such news sites are being “drowned out” by networks which have reach and frequency and take “all the credit” but haven’t influenced the customer. Attribution has shown customers are coming from quality media sites.
“For a lot of our clients it’s about understanding and justifying why they’re doing display. Some of their best performing customers sign up not having clicked but having viewed. If this is what’s happening, we’re not optimising our best-performing media,” said Wheaton.
Attribution is an important tool to understand the role of higher quality media, he stressed. “There might only be tens of thousand viewing The Telegraph, and as these sites don’t have the highest reach they don’t get the last click, so their effect can be less clear. But our attribution is showing they play a key role.”
Matt Simpson, IPA Digital Media Group chairman and EMEA head of digital at Omnicom, said there’s a growing need to set a precedent that changes the flow of money beyond channels “hijacking the last click”.
“These are making huge amounts of money. Attribution may save a number of publishers because it will show what different content providers offer,” he said. “You’ll be able to see the relative position of vertical content versus sites that are designed to catch your decision.”
But he warned, “For a marketer not working on attribution, it’s a pretty scary place to be. How can you start making decisions about mobile and web TV when you don’t have a proper understanding of online activity?”
In November, clothing brand Fat Face consolidated all its online media activity within one agency in order to increase ROI and track the effect of online channels on sales (nma 18 November 2010).
The clothing retailer appointed digital agency Blue Barracuda to handle its online activity across all channels, including affiliate, display and email, and plans to use an attribution model to track the effect of each channel on the sales journey.
B&Q and Asda Financial Services have also made greater efforts to understand cross-channel attribution in recent months, while specialist search agencies including Efficient Frontier and SearchIgnite have extended media trading capabilities to include attribution modeling.
Havas Media also offers tracking and attribution for clients including BMI. Its proposition, Artemis, looks at tracking not just converting customers but also those not converting, as well as cross-platform tracking, according to Ciaran McConaghy, group head of data and analytics for Havas UK.