Can Awareness and Attribution Live Together?

  • by , Featured Contributor, April 16, 2015
For years, many folks in media have questioned whether brand advertising and ROI can live together well. Awareness, a key metric of brand advertising, has for many been seen as mutually exclusive from a metric like sales attribution, a key measurement long associated with direct response.

At the industry event PeopleFront, my colleague John Piccone asked several media executives the question: Can awareness and attribution live together? Sharon O’Sullivan, executive vice president of sales at Discovery Communications, had no hesitation in answering: “Absolutely. They can and do every day.”

In her answer, which was supported by similar responses from Daniel Slotwiner of Facebook and Dan Aversano of Turner Broadcasting, O’Sullivan made it clear that she and Discovery believe that providing ad campaign metrics that extend from the top of the consumer purchase funnel -- awareness -- to the bottom -- sales attribution -- works. And providing such metrics in tandem is a critical element of new, data-driven strategies at companies like Discovery. This is how marketers are evaluating campaigns more and more, and the TV medium has historically been able to distinguish itself in both metrics.



What I found so refreshing in O’Sullivan’s response was not just the definitiveness of her answer, but the fact that a TV executive had no issues with talking about the importance of ROI metrics to the business, a subject that many had not always wanted to confront in years past. To me, this signals a new boldness in the TV industry, with members realizing that more and better ROI measurements only make TV more compelling and unique. Marketers have long known of ROI’s capacity to drive sales, and do it quickly. They just didn’t always have the kind of highly granular, matched media exposure and purchase data, like what exists now, to prove this.

We no longer have to live in a world where media and marketing channels are defined -- and discriminated against -- by their measurements. Brand advertising delivers no less branding, just because it can now be measured to an exacting ROI. The same for direct response. It is no less effective in driving response, while its providers develop the capacity to demonstrate how their vehicles can also deliver measurable branding. Remember all the Google research touting the power of unclicked text ads to drive awareness? :)

Can awareness and attribution live together? I’m with O’Sullivan. They absolutely can. What do you think?

7 comments about "Can Awareness and Attribution Live Together?".
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  1. Dr. Jake Beniflah from mitĂș, April 16, 2015 at 5:41 p.m.


    I whole-heartedly agree with your question - and your underlying premise. I am building a cultural model that drives Hispanic TV ROI and refines the Hispanic TV audience -- that's not built on language. Are you interested?


    Jake Beniflah
    Center for Multicultural Science

  2. Scott Berkowitz from Entrepreneur, April 16, 2015 at 6:27 p.m.

    I've always believed this is true.  Even though a company's main objective may be direct response, their message will also build brand awareness.  It kind of goes without saying as many of my customers expect both, albeit one more than the other depending on the campaign.

  3. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia, April 17, 2015 at 6:14 a.m.

    Thanks Jake. I'm always interested in learning more about models that drive ROI.

  4. Chris Williams from self-employed, April 17, 2015 at 10:08 a.m.

    Can't have sales without awareness and likeability but you can have likeability and awareness without sales. Sales are the goal, brand metrics are a means to get there.

  5. Robert Barrows from R.M. Barrows, Inc. Advertising & Public Relations, April 19, 2015 at 1:47 p.m.

    The answer to your question is really quite simple....


    ...What you are looking for is something that can actually quantify the popularity of a product and its promotion. 


    Along those lines, I have developed some easy-to-use math that actually lets you do that.


    The math is called “The Barrows Popularity Factor” and it will actually let you quantify the relationship between your advertising and sales. That’s right, Quantify it!


    it will give you more of the information you need to make key marketing decisions with far less risk, and it can help you increase your sales, increase your profit and decrease your risk.


    Plus, the math is universal and effective and it is extremely easy-to-use. All of the math can be done by one person, in moments. with just a simple calculator...and as they say in advertising... “It really works.” 


    Businesses of all kinds can use the math to help them make a lot more money and you can read more about it in a booklet called “The Barrows Popularity Factor” which you can find online.

  6. Keith Pieper from IMM, April 20, 2015 at 7:48 p.m.

    If awareness and attribution don't work together, then your media is not being held accountable.After all, it's often referred to as "working media", but what doesn't get measured doesn't get done.

    I think part of the problem in the digital, real-time era of today is awareness buys are still wedded to the traditional "brand study" methodology. Brand studies don't lend themselves to real time attribution and optimization. They are static and perhaps a snapshot in time that can be used to inform the next buy.

    For awareness buys to be attributable (and accountable), they need real-time measurement across the entire buy in a systematic fashion, no different than a click or conversion measurement today. It's not impossible, but it's not easy.

  7. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia, April 20, 2015 at 8:21 p.m.

    Great point Keith. I totally agree. We haven't had the kind of observed, accountable metrics on the awareness side that we've had with attribution. They need to become more available, and more integrated, for it to become how business is done.

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