Features

It’s Time for Brands to Lead

Written on
Jan 21, 2016 
Author
Steve Latham  |

“Better” begins with the Advertiser. I love the new Vonage ad about “Better.” It’s not only clever and funny, it emphasizes that “Better” should be the goal of every brand. But when it comes to digital attribution, “Better” is being achieved by too few advertisers; most still rely on antiquated last-touch performance metrics for two reasons: operational friction (multi-touch attribution has historically been complex, costly and cumbersome) and the lack of involvement from the brands who rely on their agencies to figure it out on their own. A new breed of attribution vendors are taking the friction out of the measurement process. Now it’s time for brands to become active participants in developing (and demanding) better insights that will drive better business results.

Brands and Digital Attribution

Smart advertisers realize they can no longer abdicate responsibility for insights and optimization to their agencies. They recognize the need to make insights a priority and participate in the process of developing strategy, assigning responsibility, defining requirements and selecting a solution. In other words, they need to lead. And, they know it.

As many early adopters of attribution have learned, not all solutions are the same and “one size fits all” does not apply. Without a clear understanding of goals, requirements, limitations and tradeoffs, advertisers often invest large sums in solutions that never meet expectations. So leading goes beyond approving a test. It means partnering with their agency to ensure they are aligned and have a shared understanding of what they need and what it will cost in terms of budget, time and energy – both upfront and over time.

The Attribution Readiness Roadmap

To avoid common pitfalls and realize the potential of attribution-informed planning, advertisers should work with their agency to define their needs, evaluate partners and choose the solution that best fits their needs. To assist in that process, here is an attribution readiness roadmap for success:

1. Prioritization: Make “Better” a priority by elevating measurement, insights and active optimization. Set clear expectations and work with your agency to ensure everyone is on the same page.

2. Active Involvement in Strategic Planning: Brands should either lead or be active participants in strategy development, resource allocation and operational oversight. It’s OK to delegate; just don’t abdicate. Work with your teams or agencies to outline a simple plan that defines conversions, performance metrics, criteria for success and a timeline for implementation. Keys to successful planning include:

· Define key requirements and document what you need in a solution. Prioritize capabilities based on what you need vs. what is possible.

· Crawl, walk, run. Before trying to tackle device bridging, multi-platform conversion pathing and audience integration, become proficient at fractional attribution and optimization of desktop media on a regular basis. Build a solid base from which you can grow.

· Pursue quick but meaningful wins, with the goal of always getting “Better.” Remember Voltaire’s quote “perfect is the enemy of good” and focus on incremental progress.

3. Sourcing Up: After determining what you need, defining criteria for selecting a solution – before diving in to each vendor’s capabilities. Key considerations should include:

· Accuracy: Fractional insights should be based on validated algorithmic models; it should be easy and efficient to ingest and match spend for each placement

· Actionability: Insights should translate into clear recommendations, with customizable forecasts for quantifying expected improvements

· Set-up: Confirm how much time and effort is required to onboard the solution, and if it will utilize existing data vs. redundant tagging of ads. Set-up times may range from one week to three months. Make sure you ask for details.

· Usability: A good tool should be intuitive and easy to use. There may be a slight learning curve, but it should not take an analytics expert to get value from the solution.

· Extensibility: How easily can 3rd party data (e.g. audience segments, device bridging, offline sales) be incorporated? Make sure you ask.

· Portability: Make sure the underlying data is exportable and useful for other applications (i.e. your Big Data initiatives). Also ask who will own the data. You may be surprised.

· Timeliness: Modeling, analysis and reporting cycles may range from one day to four weeks. If you want to fast insights, make sure your vendor can deliver them.

· Support: Efficient onboarding, training and ongoing support is a key requirement for success. Find out what you’ll get and what it will cost.

· Costs: Understand the fee structure and how it will scale as you grow. Given that fees may range from $2,500-$25,000 (or more) per month, you need to know the total cost of ownership. Make sure to include the cost of log file data in your analysis.

As mentioned earlier, vendors are taking friction out of the process by offering integration solutions. Tight integration between the ad server, site tagging, data unification and spend reporting are critical. Fully integrated systems now enable advertisers to receive better data and sharper insights while saving time, energy and money.

4. Reporting and Optimization: Schedule monthly meetings to review results, discuss the learning and agree on actions to optimize performance. Celebrate your successes and learn from your disappointments and make the ongoing pursuit of “Better” a priority.

Through active involvement and participation, brands can help their agencies be more successful and achieve “Better” results that will benefit us all.

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Steve Latham is general manager of Encore by Flashtalking. He is the founder and former CEO of Encore Media Metrics, a leading provider of attribution and reporting solutions for advertisers and media vendors.
Prior to founding Encore, Steve founded, grew and sold Spur Interactive, a strategic marketing agency that specialized in digital marketing and advertising. In this role Steve planned and managed digital campaigns for more than 25 brands, including FedEx Office, Continental Airlines and ConocoPhillips, to name a few.

Steve is a thought leader and expert practitioner in online media measurement and attribution. Since 2006, Steve’s team has been on the cutting edge of analyzing customer engagement and quantifying the impact of display, search, email, social and other online media in creating awareness, consideration and preference for brands.

Steve is an accomplished industry speaker and contributing author. Steve recently spoke at Ad-Tech, OMMA Global, IAB Mixx, Search Engine Strategies, OMMA Metrics, Online Marketing Summit and the eMetrics Optimization Summit. Steve has been featured in MediaPost, iMedia Connection, Marketing News, PR Week, Fortune.com and CNN.com. Steve shares insights and case studies on the Encore blog.

Steve earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BBA from the University of Oklahoma. You can connect with Steve on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

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