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Google, AOL Go All In on Attribution

Written on
May 12, 2014 
Author
Richard L. Tso  |

ADOTAS – In what appears to be an attribution arms race, media giant AOL announced its acquisition last week of Convertro for nearly $100 million, just on the heels of Google’s announced plans to scoop up Adometry.

While the financial terms of the latter deal were not disclosed, Adometry raised just under $44 million in funding and has recently been heavily focused on building strategic partnerships, strategic hiring and making itself an attractive target for potential suitors, according to sources.


As Mike Shields of the Wall Street Journal reported about the Adometry acquisition, “The deal is an ironic one for Google, given that for years, Web publishers have complained that Google search ads get too much credit.” Shields points to the fact that Google works by displaying ads relevant to specific search queries, something that competing ad companies are simply unable to do.

Scott Vaughan, CMO of marketing cloud company Integrate reiterated the sentiment expressed by Shields.

“Ironically, Google search has long been called out for getting too much credit for performance,” said Vaughan. “Google’s move to acquire Adometry is a step to provide their customers with attribution for their ad spend and is also a step on the march towards being able to deliver and measure beyond advertising to get a full view of customer engagement and experience.”

“Google looks to become more open about spend allocated to its properties,” added Josh Manion, founder and CEO of Ensighten, “but ultimately, Google’s conflict of interest in trying to measure the very media it is selling may prove difficult to overcome, particularly with large enterprises. “Leading enterprises prefer an open platform, which enables them collect, own and activate data from and across every channel and device. What Google is trying to do is to tie attribution directly onto advertising, preventing enterprises from owning their data and measuring the return of their campaigns in an objective manner.”

Why All the Hype Around Attribution?

Just one glance at the Lumascape reveals a startling fact: There is an overabundance of ad technologies, DSPs and ad networks marketers can leverage for campaign management, ad buying and ad delivery. Needless to say, it’s become overwhelming. The convoluted ad stack has made the process difficult to navigate, let alone measure overall campaign effectiveness and impact. While attribution technologies have been around for a several years, they are just hitting their stride as large media companies attempt to connect the media mix dots to make sense of multi-channel approaches, setting their sights on better understanding campaign success.

Traditional tracking methods are relied heavily on last-click attribution models, but these provide an incomplete picture of what is actually influencing people’s purchasing decisions. Attribution is novel in it’s approach and works by assigning different values to each consumer touch point on the road to a conversion or sale, whether it’s when someone clicks on an online ad, visits a brand’s website or even views a television commercial. In the real world, all brand exposures are cumulative and someone may need to be shown a different combination of ads before they make the decision to by. Attribution aims to give credit to each brand exposure along the way.

The Attribution Market Heats Up

To acquire Convertro, AOL is reported to be paying $89 million in cash at closing plus $2 million in converted stock awards and up to $10 million if certain goals are met over 17 months. Since Convertro utilizes data to arm marketers with information about which ads lead customers to buy, applications across AOL’s media properties like TechCrunch and Huffington Post are pretty much limitless. For example, AOL could use Convertro’s technology to help advertisers identify the optimum placement of ads on a webpage. Convertro can also track when television commercials or radio ad spots helped drive a purchase.

“Attribution is a means to an end, which is achieving efficiency in marketing and making it easier and more effective for advertisers, agencies and publishers,”said Jeff Zwelling, CEO, Convertro. “Applying Convertro’s technology across AOL Platforms’ programmatic platforms, including ONE by AOL, will drive even greater value to media investments across all channels, as well as provide visibility and accountability into the impact of advertising from first exposure to conversion.”

“By purchasing Convertro, AOL is trying to add attribution around the top of the funnel to connect the dots to ad performance,” said Vaughan of Integrate. “It’s a positive and necessary move for AOL to demonstrate the company’s commitment to measure ad effectiveness. The idea behind marketing technology is understanding the full customer experience and gain a complete view of the customer. Ad tech, including programmatic, is just a piece of the marketing tech solution required for today’s modern marketer.”

Manion added,“We believe that both the Adometry and the Convertro acquisitions will create greenfield opportunities for Ensighten to market our attribution solution, which we obtained via our TagMan acquisition, as part of our Agile Marketing Platform. We anticipate strong demand for an independent attribution solution that is not affiliated with a publisher.”





Richard L. Tso is a reporter for Adotas and an avid writer covering the intersection of technology and advertising, fashion and music. With over 12 years of experience in the Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations industries, Richard has held executive positions at global agencies and technology companies and is founder of the interactive communications firm Pseudosound Consulting LLC. A classical cellist and painter, he believes that sometimes sound carries more weight than words. He is a graduate of Stanford University.

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