Publishers Applaud Attribution Acquisitions … To An Extent


ADOTAS – In the same day, two ad tech companies specializing in attribution were acquired. AOL purchased Convertro for $91 million, with performance triggers that could add $10 million to the final price tag. Meanwhile, Google snatched up Adometry for an undisclosed sum (let’s assume a price tag north of $150-$200 million, given Adometry had raised $50 million in funding to date).

To recap, two highly specialized “point solution” companies were purchased for roughly $250 million on the same day!  This is huge for publishers and display advertising pundits alike as for years they’ve clamored search gets recognized, or is “attributed” credit for generating interest/engagement when in actuality it was the humble display ad unit which did the heavy lifting!  The fact that the unbridled king of search, Google, is getting behind this type of technology should be a signal that display is finally starting to get digital street cred.

To highlight how business typically operates today, let’s say an Audi enthusiast is browsing CNN and happens to see a Lexus display ad touting the new Lexus LS features.  Now if this consumer isn’t a “clicker,” they may take mental note of the model and later conduct a search for the Lexus LS.  Unless the digital media team is very diligent and has employed proper attribution tools – there is a very high likelihood that search will get 100% credit for this action.  Most of the industry realizes this is a broken model, but we seem to be getting serious about addressing the situation.

While these attribution developments are positive for the display ad community on the whole, the question will arise whether or not advertising clients will be comfortable leveraging a media vendor’s proprietary attribution tools for campaigns running in each of these ecosystems (i.e. AOL and Google).  What about other media properties, exchanges, etc?  Will marketers and agencies cross-leverage respective attribution tools and keep their fingers crossed results are not being skewed for the home team?

I think it would be highly admirable for AOL or Google to point out that a competitor’s media is driving more value their own home cooking – especially when tens of millions are potentially on the line.  How will publishers outside of Google and AOL respond when their media is ultimately being measured by their peers?  The proverbial idea of letting the fox guard the chicken coop comes to mind in this scenario.

An argument could be made that an open or independent platform such as C3 Metrics or Visual IQ may be preferable for a truly unbiased analysis, or perhaps be implemented on media plans that do not live in the walled gardens of AOL and Google.  In that vein, these remaining independent attribution firms may quickly become attractive acquisitions to leading enterprise analytics companies such as Adobe, IBM, or SAS Institute.

At minimum, the industry seems to be headed towards properly recognizing where/when media is adding value along the consideration process.

Data doesn’t lie, but transparency and trust are still a work in progress for our industry.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.


  1. Thanks Seth for the article. I should note that Convertro and AOL platforms remain media agnostic. For example, in no way do we require advertising dollars spent on AOL in any format in order to work with Convertro.

    If you have any more questions related to our acquisition or about our methods of attributing conversions please feel free to reach out.



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