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"Bubble Attribution" or True Cross Channel Attribution

Volume 2, Issue 7 - July, 2012

Editor, IQ Advisor

Although isolated marketing technologists were thinking about and working on the attribution management problem prior to 2007, that was the year in which the topic of marketing attribution really started to gain awareness. In hindsight, the timing makes complete sense, as that was the first year that U.S. broadband penetration passed the 50 percent mark, and the Internet was booming. Advertisers had larger digital budgets, were using more channels, and their need for better ROI performance measurement and optimization recommendations was growing.

Technology vendors recognized this trend and – in a world where product roadmaps get written based on the features executives think will sell – many began to try to net quick wins by hotwiring attribution features into their own platforms. Although many vendors truly hoped these tools would help their users achieve optimization nirvana, it’s not surprising that others were just trying to check the “attribution” box so they could align their product marketing with the topic du jour.

Bubble Attribution

One analogy on how bubble attribution compares to true attribution is to envision a chemist definitively asserting that Chemical A was the sole catalyst to turn Solution X blue. The problem is, he didn’t know that Chemicals B, C, and D were also added to the experiment. So in actuality, he had no way of truly knowing which chemical impacted the solution.

Bubble attribution is a term that applies to attribution functionality that’s snapped onto single channel platforms in an attempt to increase the size of the channel’s slice of the overall media plan pie. For example, a PPC management tool’s attribution feature will provide intelligence into paid search clicks that help contribute to the final conversion event by other keywords. However, it may not take into account all of the media touchpoints that need to be tracked in order to truly provide the deep optimization recommendations that onlytrue cross channel attribution tools can provide.

Chemistry Analogy

One analogy on how bubble attribution compares to true attribution is to envision a chemist definitively asserting that Chemical A was the sole catalyst to turn Solution X blue. The problem is, he didn’t know that Chemicals B, C, and D were also added to the experiment. So in actuality, he had no way of truly knowing which chemical impacted the solution.

In some cases, optimization performed utilizing the insights produced by bubble attribution could actually be more detrimental to marketing performance than by simply leaving the campaign alone. Cross channel data and a platform that is not associated with a single channel is absolutely crucial to proper attribution in order to get a complete picture of where the appropriate optimization should be performed by an advertiser. Without all of the data, and an unbiased platform, one could end up turning off media that is actually influencing users to convert on other channels.

The bottom line: bubble attribution can provide interesting, single-channel insights but should not be used to affect changes to a multi-channel marketing environment.

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