One Goal Many Paths (Part 1)

The challenge of attribution modeling is more difficult than ever before, and determining which advertising exposures lead customers down the path to purchase changes on a case-by-case basis.


During the 2013 ERA D2C Convention in September, a group of industry experts convened to talk about the challenges of attribution in an increasingly complicated media landscape. They agreed that attribution is a moving target, and that there can never truly be a one-size-fits-all model. But there’s more to the story. In the first of a two-part series, the experts discuss the difficulties inherent in measuring response and moving the “levers” necessary to improve response and return on investment.


Electronic Retailer: What is the definition of attribution modeling?

Dan Schlafman, Vice President, Analytics and Modeling, Havas Edge: I view it in two primary buckets: source attribution and DRTV Web attribution. Source attribution is trying to allocate credit for response across all marketing channels the client [is] active in—I view it as slicing up the pie. DRTV Web attribution takes its slice of the pie down to attribution at the “micro,” airing-by-airing level. It gets more complicated from there.


Monica C. Smith, Founder and CEO, Marketsmith/I.Predictus: Attribution is a tool for marketers and brands to better understand and maximize ROI. The goal is to recognize that the consumer is on an evolving digital path, and attribution is about trying to understand that path as best as possible with all of the different touchpoints out there—to take the data in and organize it to better understand how to best spend marketing dollars in real time.


“Our Holy Grail is attribution—trying to match demand fulfillment back to the channels that generated [demand] so that we can stimulate orders and invest advertising dollars most effectively.”
—Ken Mahony, senior vice president, Marketing, Guth-Renker, LLC


Ken Mahony, Senior Vice President, Marketing, Guthy-Renker, LLC: I view it as trying to match demand fulfillment back to the channels that generated [demand] so that we can stimulate orders and invest advertising dollars most effectively. With a brand like Proactiv running 5,000 spots a week, it gets very difficult. Our Holy Grail is attribution.


Keith Kochberg, President, Digital, Mercury Media: Until this year, when I would think about attribution, it would be primarily from a digital perspective. A touchpoint analysis might say, “The user saw this, but didn’t react to it.” There probably needs to be a better definition, because within a Google environment, it will be the touchpoints in that environment, and you have to marry it to allocation or attribution on the TV side. It is an insanely complex challenge to solve, and it will require not just technology, but some level of psychology.


ER: How many touchpoints are we talking about?

Smith: As innovation occurs, more touchpoints are created, but it’s not about [a single] entry. It’s about a path to purchase in which multiple touchpoints are potentially engaged, and where that expense or revenue gets allocated. The other challenge is that there are other touchpoints and disruptive marketing from the competition that [are] also part of the path to purchase. There are obstacles we throw in the way, and there are competitors who are trying to skim revenue. The ecosystem is highly complex.


Schlafman: The consumer is processing more touchpoints more efficiently; we are just on the cusp of being more intelligent about targeting them. In the past, targeting has been a descriptive endeavor—the idea was to get [a] deep understanding of the consumer. Now we would like to understand their underlying motivators, [and] I’m seeing more adoption of syndicated segmentation solutions that can be applied across channels.