Facebook's Mobile Tracking Is Smart - But Let's Not Get Carried Away

So Facebook truly is a mobile-first company after all as it launches its clever cross-channel tracking service designed to ensure that mobile adverts get their fair share of attribution and recognition by advertising agencies and their brand marketer clients.

It's a useful tool for digital marketers to have. Seeing who has viewed or clicked on an advert in either a mobile format and then correlating that a desktop conversion, or vice versa, will help inform those running campaigns which messaging is working -- and crucially, how it is affecting sales. As we move to a more mobile world, this ability for the channel to get its fair share of thanks when a conversion is made on another digital channel can only be a good thing.

It would appear the data is anonymous and linked to a tracking pixel, which advertisers will place in adverts to ensure they are registered as having been seen.

Just before we get too carried away, however, it's worth pointing out a couple of truths we can easily ignore when waxing lyrical about digital marketing -- and in particular, social and mobile.

It depends whom you get your figures from, but a general rule of thumb is that something like four in five UK purchases, at the very least, are made inside a shop and so cannot be correlated back directly to a consumer having seen an advert of any kind.

Also, let's not forget that digital was around just over a third of the UK's near GBP18bn advertising spend last year, according to the Advertising Association. Yes, of course, it's growing as a proportion for reasons we all know only too well -- but still, two in every three advertising pounds spent in the UK went on traditional media.

Delving deeper into digital's spend, mobile is around a sixth of the total, surpassing GBP1bn for the first time. So that's a lot of money, and it's growing hugely (particularly mobile video) -- but we're talking about the ability, right now, to correlate GBP1bn worth of advertising spend with the remaining GBP5bn of digital advertising.

That would obviously only be the case if every campaign on every site from every advertiser through every exchange were all tracked by Facebook's pixel technology.

So, to reflect, four in five purchases are untrackable, because they are in-store, and only one in three of brands' advertising pounds have the ability to be tracked and that's only if absolutely everyone in digital signs up. Even then, though, the question will remain whether seeing a digital display advert had an impact on a future purchase?

Sorry if this makes me seem like a cynic or some miserable old hack because actually I think it's a great idea that, if done well, will help inform digital marketers far better.

It's just that sometimes, every now and then, when digital marketers admire the latest shiny, clever box of tricks, we just have to remind ourselves that Facebook isn't the be all and end all of everything digital, and digital is not the be all and end all of all advertising.

1 comment about "Facebook's Mobile Tracking Is Smart - But Let's Not Get Carried Away".
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  1. Tom Goodwin from Tomorrow, August 15, 2014 at 6 a.m.

    Great writing and about time someone put perspective into this progress.
    Another key point missing from attribution debates is how complex our decision making is. The idea that an ad online could ever be "responsible" for a purchase is nonsense. This idea of last touch attribution is crazy, we may buy a TV because of 20,000 different bits of information, the idea of attributing this to anything is nuts. There may be huge correlation between the sort of people shown an add for something and what they buy, but it's likely to be that they were shown the add because they were more likely to buy, not the other way around.

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