A Programmatic Future Needs Attribution As Its Trailblazer

Earlier this year, attribution was making headlines. Google announced it had acquired the ad attribution company Adometry, and then AOL followed suit by spending $101 million on the marketing optimisation platform Converto. The reason these two powerhouses are so interested in the technology is that it allows a marketer to look across different ad channels, formats and segments to determine which ads influenced which kinds of users and when, which is a powerful thing. If the future is an enhanced programmatic one, then attribution will be the trailblazer.

According to Forrester, omni-channel attribution can reduce cost per action by between 30% and 50%. By achieving granular attribution insights, you can better refine keywords, increasing their relevance and therefore the relevance to a user coming from an ad, a keyword or a URL. This leads to improvements in ROI of between 50% and 100% as you stop throwing money at the wrong leads and begin to understand the types of leads that turn into conversions along the funnel, and those that can be retargeted.

Attribution improves marketing spend and alerts us to customer paths to purchase that otherwise would remain hidden in campaign or channel silos -- but if attribution is going to continue to trailblaze, it needs to set a collision course with tag management systems. The real value in attribution is in understanding one-time actions, as well as the journey of visitors who come back multiple times and ultimately convert. Tag management systems hold this data, enabling marketers to action a wider range of improvements such as changing bids according to the customer journey or implementing deeper personalisation -- such as showing users something different on their third visit, when they’re more likely to buy, compared with their first.

The promise of tag management systems, which wrestle data signals from numerous site tags, is that marketers can gain greater insight into media performance onsite, offsite and offline. Attribution data -- such as which vendor deserves credit, which campaign is influencing down-funnel conversions, which audiences are responding to which campaigns -- improves spending decisions. However, by automatically integrating tag data, marketers are also able to collect the unified view in real-time. The tag management system is uniquely able to do this because its core competence is collecting and connecting data across millions of pieces of software in the blink of an eye.

As more of the digital powerhouses catch on to the importance of data integration, industry consolidation will continue to make headlines. Reading between the lines, however, it will also become more important for brands to get attribution data from a truly neutral source. In fact, neutrality is one of the cornerstones of attribution and one of the reasons it even exists. Neutrality is becoming increasingly rare, and more differentiated in the market, as the purveyors of digital advertising are predominantly the ones making attribution acquisitions and offering new solutions. Therefore, it's important to have a system that does not regard one set of solutions, campaigns, media, channels, or strategies above any other -- instead allowing marketers to collect and analyse data objectively at a single point, and then use the insights to choose and integrate tech that’s fit for the purpose. 

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