Stop Scraping Funnel Bottoms: Go Upstream To Pan For Gold

I can’t tell you how many performance marketers I speak with who still disdain upper-funnel marketing. Whether they struggle to ascribe value to traditional branding metrics like impressions or views or have trouble analyzing the full customer journey or both, they’d rather spend where they see quick, measurable return: the bottom of the funnel.

I, too, used to undervalue the upper funnel -- until I evaluated lift studies for Fortune 500 financial institutions while I was at Facebook years ago. Surprise: branding drove conversions, which was clear even through murky measurement.

Today, the bottom of the funnel is more competitive (expensive) than ever. And given the improvement of Meta and Google’s AI-fueled algorithms -- not to mention emerging martech tools for predictive LTV and media-mix modeling -- it’s time to reconsider going upstream, where the waters are clearer, engagements are cheaper, and new channels and technologies are proving viable.




KPIs are evolving to show impact lift throughout the purchase journey, making it viable to spend up the funnel where engagement costs are lower. Tools like Meta’s lift studies have transcended traditional holdout tests to give marketers effective ways to measure upper-funnel campaigns – and, spoiler alert, we’re finding the impact is significant.

Native tools

Looking at results, Meta is clearly ahead of Google. Advantage+ campaigns are proving effective at many objectives, including reach. Yet Google’s push into AI, now incorporating LLMs (large language models) into the bidding underpinning Performance Max, may improve upper-funnel efficacy across YouTube, the GDN, etc.

Most marketers could benefit from leaning into YouTube and Video ads to drive greater reach across Google’s ad properties. Although an imperfect metric, assisted conversions are a good directional starting point.


Whether it’s attribution tools like Rockerbox or Measured or predictive analytics vendors like or ChannelMix that enable effective media mix modeling, marketers have options to assess whether to move up-funnel. With today’s AI innovation and a push to server-side integrations, marketers can reap greater gains in understanding the upper-funnel impact on lower-funnel events.

More channels

Connected TV is on the rise in marketing portfolios,  which means its competitive costs will follow. Now’s the time to invest in the creative and partnerships that let you tap into CTV’s upper-funnel audiences. Just make sure you’re ready to measure their effect downstream, which is not immediate. TV advertising takes sustained effort and compelling creative, so prepare to invest for at least three months before measuring ROI, noting that your direct response campaigns will likely grow a “magic” halo.


Bottom-funnel costs won’t suddenly decrease. Performance marketers’ best shot at lowering them is to invest intelligently in upper-funnel activities as soon as they’re confident they can assess the value of those campaigns. Hunkering down in high-cost territory might make your life simpler today, but over the coming months, you’ll continue to complain about high acquisition costs -- while your competitors collect gold upstream.

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