Media Attribution: Protecting Your Return on Ad Spend

Media attribution is the process of using data to identify which channels are bringing in the strongest return. Attribution provides critical data that supports optimized media strategies, providing marketers with actionable insights about the specific channels, messages, activities, touchpoints, etc. that are working, and the strategies that need to be adjusted. 

Today’s media planners and buyers understand business outcomes are the ultimate KPI. However, for all the excitement media attribution generates, it is a highly nuanced, often misunderstood process. 

Today, the marketplace is filled to the brim with tools and services to assist with attribution. But before the technology arrived, marketers had to rely on assumptive correlation, which sounds something like this:

Media Attribution

“The TV ad ran at 7:59pm, and there was a spike in site traffic at 8:01pm–the TV ad is responsible for the spike in site traffic. We should allocate more budget to TV!”

Why is this assumption flawed? Well, it fails to consider the following questions:

  • Is that TV spot the only advertisement in the market?
  • Were there other channels active at the same time?
  • Which market/where did the traffic come from?
  • What else could have influenced the traffic spike?

Even if we consider each of the above questions, attribution still wouldn’t be that simple. Basic tools like Google Analytics attribution or Facebook’s DashThis are limited to low-hanging, reportable fruit– there is most certainly more going on than what your dashboards show.

If you want to implement media attribution with accuracy, you must apply an attribution model that accounts for every channel, platform, and strategy.

What are Attribution Models?

Attribution models use a set of parameters to identify which touchpoints secured conversions. Attribution models also measure the extent to which a single touchpoint is responsible for said conversion. 

Just as there are many types of data, there are many attribution models, including:

First Touch Attribution Model
  • First Touch Attribution

Best suited for understanding the strategies that impact brand awareness, it gives 100% of the credit for a conversion to the first touchpoint.

Last Touch Attribution Model
  • Last Touch Attribution

Gives 100% of the credit for a conversion to the last touchpoint and can help determine the channels that directly impact conversions.

Multi Touch Linear Attribution Model
  • Multi-Touch Linear Attribution

Credit is equitably distributed among every touchpoint and it can be used to see all the channels and campaigns that impact conversions.

Time Decay Attribution Model
  • Time Decay Attribution

Gives more credit to the touchpoints that occur right before a conversion– advertisers with long sales cycles often use this model.

U Shaped Attribution Model
  • U-Shaped Attribution

This model is a good choice for campaigns that place a higher value on awareness and conversion–40% of the credit goes to the first and last touchpoints.

W Shaped Attribution Model
  • W-Shaped Attribution:

Great for lead generation campaigns, this model gives 30% of the credit to the first, last, and middle lead conversion touchpoints.

Custom Attribution Model
  • Custom Attribution

This model allows advertisers to assign custom weight to each channel and campaign. It is best used for campaigns with long, highly complicated customer journeys.

Regardless of model-type, there are overarching guidelines when it comes to attribution solutions. Here are three examples:

  1. Solutions should be timely and without reporting delays to facilitate real time decisions and optimizations.
  2. Solutions should reconcile channel dashboards, and attribution data for accurate, comprehensive reporting.
  3. Solutions should be able to follow and understand actions across multiple channels and devices.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by media attribution, don’t worry—you are not alone! While 66% of marketers agree on the importance of data analytics, only 9% of marketers in the U.S. rated their company’s understanding of data-driven attribution as excellent. What’s more, more than half of marketers feel their modeling techniques are untrustworthy.

Why is Attribution Important?

Though the learning curve is steep, media attribution is invaluable to high-powered media planning and buying. Not only does it support a thorough understanding of the customer journey, attribution conveys return on ad spend (ROAS) and return on investment (ROI), allows for optimized media spend, improves customer experience and personalization, and more! 

Think about it: if you can determine which platform and/or touchpoint is driving the most conversions/sales, you can put more money into whichever is more successful and maximize ROAS/ROI.

An Attribution Case Study

Marketing Doctor was contracted to help a government organization increase donations using Facebook, Snapchat, and Google Display.

In order to maximize the client’s budget, our digital media team tagged the Donate Now button on the campaign landing page using Google Tag Manager (GTMs) and UTMs. Tracking and data analysis revealed which media platform prompted the most audience engagement.

Our data analysts found that Google Display accounted for 55.4% of clicks, Facebook accounted for 43.2% of clicks, and Snapchat accounted for 1.4% of clicks. Transforming this data into actionable insights, we reallocated the media budget to deliver results exceeding client expectations. We saw a 32% increase in donation button clicks after reallocating budgets to the top performing platforms.

Want Better Results?

In a world of endless data, knowing how to leverage it and deliver optimal marketing results is paramount. If you have an advertising goal, we have a plan to reach it. Let’s talk.

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