New Tool Aims to Pinpoint Pre-Click Ad Influence

It’s been nearly two years since Yahoo observed display ads driving searches and search ad clicks on its network, since which time a good deal of research has backed up the finding. Just last month, separate reports from comScore and Avenue A/Razorfish measured much higher conversion rates among consumers who see both display and search placements.

Yet despite a growing consensus that the ad types work in concert, marketers by and large give exclusive credit for a conversion to the ad that was actually clicked. Recognizing a disconnect, digital agency Starcom IP introduced a new tool to measure the influence various ad types have on the final click before a purchase.

Called Multiple Attribution Protocol, or MAP, the system assigns a share-of-influence to search and display ads, plus various sub-formats in the display category, such as homepage takeovers and graphical buttons.

“The current tools are flawed because they base everything on the most recent click,” said Jeff Marshall, managing director and VP of Starcom IP. “This tool allows us to understand the… combined effect of your digital marketing dollars. It completely removes the concept of either/or.”

The ultimate goal, he said, is to help advertisers take into account the approximate relative importance of each impression, for instance a floating ad unit served six weeks before conversion compared with a search ad appearing one week before.

Marshall is close-lipped about the mechanics of MAP, which is now being used by a handful of clients he declined to name. The most he’ll say is that it uses historical data about a given client’s previous marketing initiatives to inform upcoming ones. It will not track users and their conversions individually, but will rather use existing campaign data to inform the particulars of future launches.

In addition to the client-specific insights MAP will provide, Marshall expects to gain broad-based learnings about the ideal blend of search and display advertising for all marketers, but he said that won’t be the focus. “The reality and our expectation is that we are going to tailor this tool to each individual client,” he said. “We are going to let the historical data for that particular category, that particular client,” govern how it’s used.

MAP is not intended to replace existing analytics platforms, he added, but rather to sit on top of them.

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