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Defining Advanced Attribution: A Cheat Sheet

Volume 4, Issue 10 - October, 2014

Manoj Mathew, Client Partner, Visual IQ

Every few days, it seems there’s another company announcing the launch of a new marketing attribution solution. With the plethora of tools and model types available, it’s easy to become confused about what differentiates “advanced” attribution from other options. To help alleviate the confusion, here’s a checklist of the defining characteristics of an advanced attribution solution.

Algorithmic Methodology

Does the solution offer an objective, scientifically rigorous algorithmic model, as well as machine learning technology? Does it use 100% of all marketing touchpoints to which a consumer is exposed? Attribution solutions that use a sampling of data or subjective models (first touch, last touch, even weighting, time decay, custom regression, etc.) not only lack science and rigor, but will also likely cause an uphill battle when getting organizational buy-in due to the anecdotal nature of the insights they provide.

Multi-Channel (Addressable & Non-Addressable)

Most attribution solutions include addressable (user-level) channels like online display and paid search. However, advanced attribution solutions are distinguished by the ability to provide insight into how offline non-addressable marketing channels like broadcast TV are influencing online conversions, and how online media is impacting offline conversions. They are also characterized by the ability to incorporate, or “onboard,” addressable offline channels like direct mail into their model to provide an in-depth view of the customer journey across all online and offline marketing touchpoints.

Cross-Device Tracking

Consumer’s interactions with brands are increasingly fragmented across different platforms and devices, ranging from desktops and mobile phones, to tablets and other connected devices. An advanced attribution solution supports cross-device tracking, so that the entire purchase path can be analyzed and marketing performance and ROI can be measured across all platforms.

Audience Insights

Advanced attribution solutions feature the ability to ingest audience data (including demographic and behavioral data) in order to understand the combination of media and tactics that are driving marketing goals by audience segment through an attributed lens. Attributed audience-specific insights allow marketers to understand the attributes of their most valuable customers, as well as those with the highest propensity to convert, and tailor their omni-channel marketing tactics to support their audience acquisition, engagement and activation strategies.

Measurement, Optimization and Activation

Advanced attribution solutions go well beyond delivering accurate measurement, providing “what if” scenario planning functionality and optimization recommendations at the executive and practitioner level, as well as the ability to activate those recommendations in near real-time by automatically sending attribution-informed metrics to media buying platforms like demand side platforms (DSPs) and real-time bidding (RTB) engines.


Unlike less sophisticated options, advanced attribution solutions are able to keep up with the increased demand for more frequent optimization recommendations as an organization matures and the analytics, media buying and planning teams adopt and embrace an attribution-based activation strategy. Moreover, advanced solutions allow for seamless drill down to their results at any level of media granularity, so that different teams within an organization can leverage the insights for scenario planning and media spend optimization according to their own specified budgets, timeframes, and marketing goals.

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