The Attribution Problem
The online advertising industry continues to face a critical dilemma: the attribution problem. Currently, most ad servers attribute 100% of credit to the last impression or click served. This ‘last touch’ attribution completely misses the contribution effect that results from other ad impressions that occurred before the last impression was shown. Not only does this discount the impact of previous ad impressions, this last touch attribution leads to questionable behavior in the industry.
Gaming the System
Bad actors at ad networks, DSPs, and even ad agencies can take advantage of last touch attribution to game the system and artificially boost campaign performance. By purchasing a high volume of low cost impressions they reach (and set the most cookies for) the largest quantity of consumers possible. The trick is this can be accomplished through ad impressions which are below-the-fold, very small ad formats, or ads even displayed behind a web page which are never truly visible to the consumer! To the third party ad server all of these impressions are identical. Once a cookie has been set, if the user happens to go to the advertiser’s website it’s the media platform which served the final ad impression that gets (and steals?) 100% of the attribution credit – even if the consumer was significantly influenced by other, more impactful ad impressions.
By ignoring the contribution effect of previous ads, the current system devalues high impact ads. Name brand publishers are often the biggest victim of this problem. Publishers with professional content who provide high impact ad units at a premium price often don’t receive the credit they deserve for influencing the consumer’s brand perception and purchase behavior.
Fixing the System
The last touch attribution system benefits neither publishers nor advertisers. The solution to the last-touch problem is to move to a multi-touch model that recognizes and assigns value to all advertising content that has influenced the consumer. For maximum value, attribution should not just take into account a single channel approach (display), but also spread across multiple media channels (display, video, mobile, email, search, etc).
Effective attribution analytics require crunching massive amounts of data in order to ensure all of the advertising “touch points” are analyzed and receive the proper levels of credit. Multi-touch attribution requires a tool with the capability to manage all of your data, bidding and more. The new Turn Audience Platform is very much designed around this concept, and we believe it’s critical that marketers increase their awareness of the problem and how to eliminate it. The use of multi-touch attribution is only going to grow in importance as the online and offline media channels continue to converge.