Under a third of marketers use multi-touch attribution—the process of measuring the value of each consumer touch point on the path to purchase—to evaluate return on marketing spending now, but another 35 percent plan to try it within a year, according to a survey by the Mobile Marketing Association.
The group has created a “Journey Map” to help them take that plunge, something that could reshape marketing spending for years to come. Online video and branded content stand to be winners from the shift to MTA, while paid search stands to be a loser, according to marketers involved with the effort.
The MTA Journey Map stems from the group’s three-year-old Marketing Attribution Think Tank initiative, backed by more than two dozen large marketers, including Samsung, Procter & Gamble Co., Unilever, L’Oreal, Chipotle and Bank of America.
Despite the “Mobile” in the group’s name, this isn’t about promoting mobile, but rather a marketer-led initiative aimed at improving analytics across media, says Sanjay Gupta, chief customer officer of TIAA, who’s been involved with the project from its inception.
His own experience with MTA has been that it’s steered spending away from paid search and toward online video across multiple platforms, he says.
MTA is an alternative to last-touch attribution, which credits a purchase or other marketer-targeted action to the last thing people saw or did before closing the deal. That tends to give paid search too much credit without accounting for other media or marketing that led people to search, Gupta says.
“Most people are not using multi-touch attribution, which means that they are not leveraging the full might of their budgets, and worse, they are optimizing based on the wrong metric,” he says. “You can get lulled into this false confidence that you’re doing things at a very sophisticated level when you’re actually not.”
MTA is also an alternative to widely used media-mix modeling, particularly popular among packaged-goods marketers and others who don’t transact directly with customers. MMA CEO Greg Stuart says MTA provides deeper insight built on “complex cross-platform user level data” that gives marketers a competitive advantage to less precise media-mix modeling.
Branded content stands to see its stock rise as MTA use grows, says Lou Paskalis, senior VP of customer engagement and media investment at Bank of America and Chair of the North American Board of the MMA.
“How much have we discussed content? It’s the marketing panacea of our time. Yet if you don’t have the right attribution model, content has no business model,” Paskalis says. “We know from research that content, when it’s shared at the right moment in the right context, is highly valuable. Multi-touch attribution fully captures that value.”
The MMA’s new Journey Map is a detailed guide to implementing MTA, including organizational setup, assessing data readiness, implementing initial projects and ultimately full deployment.
While Gupta believes research showing the number of marketers using MTA could double within a year, that doesn’t mean the impact will be instant, because marketers will quickly bump into the reality that “MTA implementation is not easy,” he says. It includes uniquely tagging every marketing element and developing ways to capture and process all that data, which he estimates is at least nine-month project.