“Half of my advertising is wasted…but I don’t know which half.”

The above, timeless quote is commonly credited to John Wanamaker, a retail merchant who today is hailed as one of retail’s founding fathers. It doesn’t matter who said it, but it does matter if marketers today are saying the same thing. It’s one of the reasons I’m so interested in attribution.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of attribution, below are a few approaches from simple to advanced:

  • Last click/action – this is probably the most common and easily calculated. But it really doesn’t provide value to answering the question of wasted spend. As a result, it generates quite a bit of discussion and debate
  • Rules based – picking a weighting level or scheme across touch points (including even, position based and time decay)
  • Algorithmic/Probabilistic modeling – defines weighting across touch points at each individual event level and is completely data-driven.

Attribution was the shiny new trend in late 2008. It promised to answer the simple question that can be so hard to answer: “which half of my spend moves the needle and how much of it is wasted?” Giving credit to each touch point along the consumers’ purchase decision path was seen as the solution to making marketing investments more appropriately for stronger leads and conversions. Unfortunately many tried and failed at attribution at the time, especially in digital channels. Or marketers found that these models were not as helpful as promised.

Attribution Today
Today the landscape has changed dramatically. This is mainly due to advances in cookie technology and our ability to collect large amounts of data quickly, while leveraging algorithms to analyze this data just as quickly.

A few weeks ago Forrester issued two new wave reports that map out the landscape of digital and cross-channel attribution providers (digital and offline).

And over the past several weeks, I’ve been investigating a wide variety of partners for attribution efforts with my clients. The advancement in technology, as well as the speed and data connections that were not available three to five years ago, means that marketers will actually be able to answer the all important question of attribution. Brands are turning to their agencies for leadership and competency in this area and we have an answer as well.

:: By Drew McKenzie, director, digital strategy
Cross posted from my personal blog, To and With

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