Multi-touch attribution isn’t dead, it’s just a little under the weather, despite the impending loss of cookies on which it long depended. That’s according to a new report by MMA Global, which believes tech workarounds and a more expansive view of marketing return-on-investment analytics will breathe new life into the measurement tool.
Multi-touch attribution (MTA) is the process by which marketers track people’s journeys across every possible ad and marketing “touchpoint” to gauge how much impact each has on their purchase decisions or other targeted behaviors—like car dealership visits or website registrations. The impending death of tracking cookies has created a widespread industry narrative that attribution—which long has relied on cookies to track people across digital media—will die along with them.
For sure, the death of cookies isn’t exactly helping MTA. Usage of attribution by marketers dropped five percentage points to 40% between 2019 and 2021, according to a survey of 250 marketers by the MMA. The percentage of marketers who said they have no immediate plans to use MTA rose to 19%, the highest proportion since 2016, the first year of the survey, when the MMA joined 20 major marketers to launch its Marketing Attribution Think Tank to advance the practice.
MMA once stood for Mobile Marketing Association but is now an all-encompassing organization where marketers make up the majority of the board, but where agency, media and marketing tech companies also are involved. MTA, which emerged a decade ago, was crucial to increasing investment in mobile media. A primary ROI analytics alternative—marketing mix modeling—often lacked the precision to track relatively small mobile media buys. And commonly used “last-touch attribution,” which attributes a sale to the last digital stop people make before buying, tends to give too much credit to search, retail or social media without counting other marketing that drove the decision.