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Cracking Cross-Device Key to Attribution Success

March 27, 2015


Nick Jordan
Senior Vice President, Global Strategy
Tapad

As the senior vice president of global strategy at cross-device services firm Tapad, Nick Jordan oversees product decisions and works with advertisers and publishers on broader initiatives. Jordan spoke with eMarketer’s Lauren Fisher about the close relationship between cross-device attribution and device identification and about the future of advanced attribution practices.

eMarketer: Your company focuses on facilitating a cross-device approach to marketing. How critical is this approach when looking to do true cross-device attribution?

Nick Jordan: We think it’s a core piece of it. Until you have a unified view of someone across all those channels and all those devices, it is bad data in, bad data out. Yes, you can look at some correlations and make some assumptions, but if you don’t know that it’s all one consumer, the data starts to degrade pretty quickly from a utility perspective because you’re only attributing on a portion of someone’s daily life, not the entirety of it.

eMarketer: Certainly the focus paid to attribution by some of the biggest cross-device players today illustrates the tight alignment between both device identification and attribution. You have both AOL and Google acquiring attribution firms last year, in addition to Facebook moving forward building out Atlas’ cross-device capabilities. Do you think that such moves will help to bring about greater adoption of cross-device attribution?

Jordan: In many cases, I think multichannel, cross-device attribution is still largely a talking point. But with companies like Google, AOL and Facebook hopping on board, adoption should hasten at least a little bit.

“I think multichannel, cross-device attribution is still largely a talking point. But with companies like Google, AOL and Facebook hopping on board, adoption should hasten at least a little bit.”

However, one remaining challenge we have is that buying is still often done in silos. The folks at agencies who buy display and mobile still think about their attribution needs from a display and mobile context. The same goes for the search and social teams and the television and offline teams.

So, when you start to intermix those teams, each one still has their own tools that help them to be smarter with how they attribute. But that attribution is still mostly done in their own silos.

Those individual buyers and teams are largely incentivized by the budget they can spend. So you end up with folks internally that are more interested and incentivized by their own channel and not the larger marketing program. What buyers are going to have to do is find a way to incentivize all those teams to do what is right for the brand at a macro-level instead of the micro-level they’re currently focused on.

To really look at cross-platform attribution, you need to see how all those channels interplay with each other. If you accept that there is a traditional marketing funnel, television is moving people down from an awareness perspective. Display and social might be driving a lot of the discussions surrounding specific offers and products, and then search might drive people to the last piece once they’ve decided to buy.

If you’re just looking at the bottom-up model, then search looks amazing and everything else looks OK. But I don’t think that really gives you the full view. The marketing mix model, which is all top-down, might give you a better view, but it’s really hard to do any intracampaign optimization. Ultimately, what marketers need is a data-driven method of tying both approaches together to really get the results they are looking for.

eMarketer: In speaking with a host of attribution firms and agencies, it’s clear many are already attempting to build such a model. However, there is no shortage of limitations in making a model 100% complete in terms of all data points required, let alone making the model truly actionable and capable of real-time optimization. Do you think we’ll ever reach the point where we truly have this type of solution?

Jordan: What we’re trying to do in advertising is to influence people, change their minds and make them brand ambassadors or buy a product. That’s never going to be a simple equation. Over time, with the amount of data that we have and the amount of technology that we have to tie that together, we will get much better at attributing the value of marketing and advertising. But it’s never going to be a fully solved, perfect science equation. But I do think we can do better as an industry than we’re doing today.

“Display and social might be driving a lot of the discussions surrounding specific offers and products, and then search might drive people to the last piece once they’ve decided to buy.”

As channels like television become more addressable and potentially even programmatic, there might be a consolidation of the technology stack where you would have search engine marketing (SEM) services and demand-side platforms (DSPs) for both display and video in one platform, even social.

All of those platforms start to have some commonalities in terms of how they buy and measure effectiveness. We could eventually see a unified platform that ties all those things together and can actually manage the fluidity of budget and manage how the optimization and post-campaign attribution actually work together.

But this isn’t a 2015 thing. And it’s not a 2016 thing, either. We might see gradual steps in this direction, but we’re probably looking at more of a 2020 thing if I had to guess when we might see such an all-digital/media mix modeling tool capable of truly holistic, cross-channel, cross-device attribution.

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