Multi-Channel Attribution Models Spur Lively Debate at I-COM

LISBON, PORTUGAL– One of the more intriguing panels from the International Conference on Online Media Measurement (I-COM) on Thursday was about multi-channel attribution. Which ad buy gets credit for the conversion? What constitutes a “conversion”? What constitutes “attribution” for that matter?

Later that day, the panel’s breakout session was joined by other marketing veterans, and a debate ensued about the need to know exactly what “caused” a consumer to make a purchase or take other action.

Andy Fisher, EVP of global data and analytics director at Starcom MediaVest USA, and Jason Shulman, CRO at [x+1], explained the value of setting up a model where appropriate marketing channels can get accredited for sales to better inform future campaigns. Each said they only know a handful of brands that use sophisticated models to do just that, while predicting that more brands would adopt what is an expensive and comprehensive practice in the next year.

“We’ve worked with clients who do draw value from it,” Fisher said. “It’s a difficult subject… The really hard problem is, how do you build the right model? And how do you show that the model you’ve built is better than what you were using before?”

Mike Hess, Carat USA’s EVP of research, argued that brand advertisers have long used models to show causation in their post-campaign analysis. He suggested that direct marketing disciples too often get caught up in data minutiae of attribution.

“For those of us who have been working with the ‘marketing mix’ model for the last 10 to 15 years, we do attribution,” Hess said. “But the attribution there is in the decomposition. For five points of digital, we can say that [one point is display and four points are search]. What I like about that approach is it allows a familiarity of the market forces that simultaneously impact [sales]. So there’s attribution, but there’s not an obsession about it.”

One thing everyone on the panel seemed to agree about was that SEM gets too much credit for conversions in the current digital climate.

ClickZ is a media sponsor of the I-COM conference. Our travel and accommodation expenses were paid by the event’s producers.

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