Why TikTok's 'Self-Attribution' Model May Be The Next New Thing, Or Not

This week, TikTok introduced multiple features that should help advertisers better track the performance of their ad campaigns in the social-media app, including new attribution analytics and self-attributing networks.

Drawing a direct link between ad exposure and conversion isn’t easy, especially in the ever-evolving social-media environment. TikTok has even stated that 79% of all conversions attributed to TikTok by users themselves were missing from last-click models, according to a post-purchase survey.

Because of this, and the indeterminate journey of a TikTok consumer, the ByteDance-owned app is trying to help advertisers on its platform gain a deeper understanding of how their campaigns are driving engagement and response through a variety of new tracking and display options.



First, TikTok is launching a series of features for Attribution Analytics, which can be found in the TikTok Ad Manager platform.

“The first feature, included as part of this release, is Performance Comparison, a measurement tool that visualizes conversions across different time windows to help advertisers find an attribution strategy that works for their business,” the company wrote in a recent statement.

Performance Comparison will allow marketers to analyze and compare the number of events reported under different attribution windows for additional actions like “View Content,” “Add to Cart,” “Initiate Checkout,” “Purchase,” and the impact on KPIs, such as cost-per-acquisition (CPA).

The company acknowledges that its default attribution windows do not always capture the actual value of a marketer's efforts. This new feature looks at the number of conversions that occurred across a 7-day click-through window, for example, compared to a 28-day click-through window to help advertisers decide the most sensible window for their campaign goals.

In a move to lure more advertisers to the platform, TikTok says it is developing additional in-app measurement tools that will “support other campaign types including app, offline, shops, and others” for further transparency.

But TikTok is also making self-attributing networks -- otherwise known at “SANs” -- a requirement for its ad partners, aiming to provide another ad-response route back to TikTok’s measurement system.

“Advertisers use Mobile Measurement Partners (MMPs) to understand the actions that users take after an ad is clicked or viewed over a certain period of time. Currently, TikTok has an integration with a number of MMPs. However, to measure clicks that lead to conversions in a multi-touch experience, advertisers can't rely on MMP data alone,” the company stated in a blog post.

TikTok says that its SAN is “a new, separate MPP network integration” that delivers enhanced visibility into the platform’s “true contribution to app performance campaign outcomes.” It does this by matching the user ID on file at the advertiser’s end with conversion data from TikTok via the MPP.

“Conversions can be more accurately recognized by TikTok and reported in TikTok Ads Manager, without any impact on existing advertiser MMP final attribution analysis,” the company added.

All in all, a SAN provides a more secure way to offer additional ad activity data to advertisers which could result in more widespread attribution of relative ad campaigns.

Advertisers already working with an MPP may see various impacts from the change, but regular advertisers using TikTok ads direct likely won’t see any alterations to their campaigns. 

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