The Next Big Thing: Real-Time Cross-Channel Attribution & Allocation


ADOTAS — Consumers receive an endless amount of input when considering even the most mundane purchase. Pre-roll ads, display ads, email, search results, Facebook posts, TV ads, billboards and more. All of these interactions influence their buying decisions — but to what degree? Fractional attribution models are useless unless you can optimize or “re-allocate” budget in real time across your media channels, publishers, creative and placements. This is even more important in a world of multi-channel and multi-device campaigns.

Now with the advent of unified ad tech stacks and the ability to track a single user across devices and channels, more and more marketers are executing multi-channel campaigns and seeing significantly higher return on their investment. The key is leveraging the data and insights from a single channel to increase the results on another channel. Using your display data quantitatively increase the performance of your video or social campaign. To generate extraordinary results, marketers must be able to quantify the cross-channel effects.

Being able to properly attribute the value generated to each consumer touch point across the entire marketing funnel and across all screens is every CMO’s dream. With cross-channel and multi-device ad serving using a single unique ID, marketers can develop their own proprietary fractional attribution models. But the real challenge is in taking action on these models by re-allocating spend in real-time across publishers, creative, devices and placements.

The ability to combine predictive optimization across multiple channels (choosing the right ad, at the right time on the right device) with the ability to re-allocate your spend across channels will be the next quantum shift in ad tech. In the same way that re-targeting reshaped how marketers could achieve better ROI through the use of a new technology solution, “re-attribution” will be the next big thing for driving better results at scale.

Making Fragmentation Work for You

Calling modern advertising fragmented is a dramatic understatement. An endless stream of content, across multiple screens, bombards consumers not just day by day, but minute by minute. Everything from short code text messages to five-minute videos on YouTube to Super Bowl halftime shows sponsored by mega brands. And don’t forget print, billboards, TV and radio.

As a result of all these disparate messages and sources, consumers themselves often aren’t aware of why they picked one brand over another. Classic examples abound. Look around you and consider your own experience. Which channel triggered your transformation from a prospect into a customer? Was it a particular sequence of ads that influenced you more than another combination? Fractional attribution combined with predictive modeling and real-time re-allocation of budgets provides marketers with the answers.

Big Data, Big Analysis, Big Results

Fractional attribution allows marketers to better understand what channel and sequence of ad exposures had the greatest impact in driving conversions. But in order to decipher this, you first need the ability to track the consumer across various channels and devices. You also need ample data to ensure it is statistically relevant, so that you’re not just picking up on the noise. This means you need not only the technical ability to track consumers across channels and devices, but also the scale, or the opportunity, to see users across the channels as well.

Putting the Puzzle Together

The benefit of multi-channel value attribution comes once you quantify the relative contributions of each part of the marketing activities and how the combination of, or the specific sequence of these events, increases the probability of a click or conversion. The process involves using predictive analytics tools to run various “what-if” scenarios. It’s also called “war-gaming,” and this is where you improve your return on ad spend, real time. Of course, to get this kind of sophisticated analysis, you need the scale and data across channels, and real people to make sense of it all – not just machine data crunching to make all the data actionable.

Allocation, the final piece of the puzzle, makes old-school marketing look truly antiquated. With allocation based on fractional attribution and real-time optimization, you quickly and easily reallocate budget dollars across channels, publishers, devices, creatives and offers to those that perform best.

It sounds cliché to say, but multi-channel value attribution really is the next big thing. Everyone will build their own proprietary value attribution models over the next 12 months. But there’s a catch: The industry will quickly find that unless you can act upon the output of the model by adjusting your spend and bidding strategies in real time, then the model isn’t very useful.

Our industry has been focused on ROI since I started in the space in 1997 at aQuantive. But traditionally we’ve focused on the “I” rather than on the “R”. Which makes sense, as it is easy to track and report on where the investment is being spent. However, it’s time our industry focuses on the “R” and to better understand which events are attributing to the conversion or the “R”eturn. The last-click model of giving 100% credit to a single event is dead and archaic (unless you’re Google). Now that we have the ability to execute multi-channel campaigns it is time to give credit to all the events that lead to a conversion.


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