Reporting from The Attribution
Accelerator – What You Need to Know

Conversion Rate Optimisation Icon. Business Concept. Isolated illustration.

Today’s post is courtesy of Jim Spaeth and Alice K. Sylvester of Sequent Partners.  This is a follow-up post on Multi-Touch Attribution.

The Attribution Accelerator conference, sponsored in part by the RAB on November 30, confirmed that the advertising industry has pinned high hopes to a new measure of media performance, Cross-Channel Attribution modeling.

Close to 300 marketers, agency, media and research providers looked at the in’s and out’s of attribution and its traditional forbearer, marketing mix models. Marketer representatives in attendance included: Unilever, Estee Lauder, Johnson & Johnson, Verizon, Weight Watchers and Citi.  The conference was designed to generate dialogue about Return On Investment measurement and hear what marketers have experienced and need.

If you think this is just another post on ROI, it’s not.  It’s about the future of planning what media is included in the plan…or not!

The audience heard the definition of attribution discussed – and it came to light that there are a variety of things people mean when they say that word.  Attribution is the study of individual media tactics’ contribution to brand sales, but there are at least four different attributions out there:

  • Digital Attribution — generally includes one or more trackable online elements on either computers or mobile devices
  • Television attribution — studies the impact of television advertising on digital outcomes
  • Multi-Touch Attribution — incorporates all digital touchpoints, including social
  • Cross-Channel Attribution — the integration of offline media like television, magazines, radio and outdoor.

Throughout the day, the conversation ranged from data inputs, modeling techniques, activation practices and human organizational challenges that at times seemed daunting.

Tony Pace, former head of the ANA Board and Subway, kicked off the day imploring people to “put the brand back into ROI.”  So much work in ROI is done at the bottom of the funnel, the immediate sales level. He wants people to focus on the top, as well – the point where the consumer falls in love with the brand and becomes a loyal advocate of it.  Tony also argued that heavy commercial loads in all media put a “drag” on consumers and bring down media return on investment.

Marketers from Verizon, Weight Watchers and Citi talked about how this new ROI system is “still very confusing.” They recognized there’s never going to be perfect data – and at this stage, there’s a lot of non-standardized data from multiple data sources that have to be stitched together to get a full view of the consumer.  They didn’t mention radio either, or other offline media like magazines or outdoor.  Clearly, today, the focus of attention is on digital and television.

The Mobile Marketing Association set the room abuzz with the results of their recent Attribution Study.  They dropped the bombshell that the attribution industry’s net promoter score – the measure of willingness of customers to recommend a company’s product or service to others — was -29%!  This means right now, there’s very low satisfaction with current attribution services and the MMA suggested that mistrust and skepticism are rampant. These dismal results are likely to improve as the practice evolves and matures, but for the one-third of marketers using attribution right now, it’s not going all that well.  By the way, they pointed out that three-fourths of marketers plan to use attribution to evaluate media performance in coming years.  So, warts and all, attribution is here to stay. But don’t be concerned.  Everyone knows that radio drives sales.  If we can get radio into these models it will shine.

Another very big topic was how to implement cross-platform attribution when most of the industry is still aligned in silos.  There’s a pretty big gulf between engineering and science on one side, and marketing and the consumer on the other.  People suggested that attribution modelers “need to get out of the back room,” and bring sexier visuals and deliverables in order to work within the daily marketing structure which typically deals with the hearts and minds of consumers.

Representatives from Time Inc., Turner and Google talked about initiatives the media have taken to understand attribution and take ROI measurement further.  They mentioned that very few RFPs from the agencies fail to ask how media performance will be measured.  This is a long way from when the media were only charged with delivering audiences – eyeballs. Now they also must demonstrate that they drive incremental sales. This group talked about some real tough issues of matching and fusing data sets – and biases raised by imperfect or incomplete data.

So, what can you, as a radio industry person, do about attribution?

  1. Stay vigilant. Read everything that comes across your desk about ROI measurement. There will be a lot of energy placed on this topic next year. This is an issue in front of the biggest advertisers, and probably at the national level.  But it won’t be forever; it will come to your market soon!
  2. Encourage your clients to think hard about radio creative and make the very best ads they can. The key to strong Return on Investment is creative.  The speakers said that over and over. Don’t fear ROI measurement — fear bad creative.
  3. Support industry-wide explorations of data fusions and more precise measures of radio listening. The data demands for cross-platform attribution are strong and the currency data may or may not fit the bill.
  4. Start a case study library – the more cases the radio industry has demonstrating its ability to drive incremental sales, the more likely they will be to win under these new measurement systems.

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