Why Campaign-Specific Attribution is Broken

Volume 3, Issue 7 - July, 2013

Anne Curtin, Director of Marketing, Visual IQ

Campaign-based marketing attribution has recently been touted as a viable alternative to attribution performed across a brand’s entire marketing ecosystem. Proponents of this position claim that it provides similar benefits to marketers at a lower cost, and with a faster implementation and less disruption to the organization. But is this a truly effective solution for gauging the influence that your multi-channel marketing efforts have on purchases or other conversions?

Here are five reasons why campaign-based attribution is a short sighted, inaccurate and dangerous method for measuring the effectiveness of your cross channel marketing campaigns:

Other Media
Campaign-specific attribution is based on observing a limited number of channels over a limited timeframe, and then applying optimization tactics and strategies drawn from that analysis to a brand’s larger, longer-term marketing ecosystem. What it fails to account for are all the other media concurrently in market, including other channels — as well as other campaigns from other business units, products and divisions — that are also impacting performance. Only when the influence that every channel, campaign and marketing tactic has on every other is accounted for and quantified can the true value of your marketing efforts be measured.

Seasonality, Econometrics & the Dynamics of the Competition
In an ideal world, performance would not change once you set your budgets. You could use campaign-based attribution to perform an analysis of select channels over a certain timeframe, set the budgets that result in peak revenue, and be done. But in the real world, marketing performance — and therefore how much budget you need to allocate across channels and tactics to achieve the best ROI — shifts regularly based on seasonal factors (weather, holidays, etc.), economic factors (interest rates, gas prices, etc.) and competitive activities (changes to media tactics, new product launches, etc.) With campaign-based attribution, these factors go unobserved during the short life of a campaign. Only more complete attribution models, which use all of your historical marketing performance data, give you a way to intelligently adapt your budgets over time as seasonal, economic and competitive performance fluctuates.

Look-Back Window
Campaign-based attribution considers only those interactions and marketing touches that occur after a campaign has launched. But what about marketing touches that occurred prior to launch that have an impact on performance? Advanced attribution not only helps define a more accurate look-back window, in which credit to each touchpoint is calculated and assigned, but also enables marketers to concentrate their media dollars during the most impactful media periods.

Results Validation
Unlike advanced attribution methodologies, the short campaign windows used for campaign-based attribution don’t allow for adequate validation against actual results. There simply isn’t enough performance data collected or measurement cycles that occur to refine the algorithms and make predictions of future marketing performance more precise.

Campaign vs. Bottom Line
Depending on the channels included, campaign-specific goals are most often associated with specific user actions, such as Facebook “likes,” page views or increased engagement. However, justifying spend to senior management can be challenging when you’re only able to identify the metrics that are important to achieving marketing campaign goals, versus business goals such as sales, revenue or profit. From the top of the funnel to conversion, advanced marketing attribution looks at the entire ecosystem of touchpoints to assess media performance, and then provides insights and recommendations into which combination of channels, campaigns and tactics provide the best return toward both your marketing goals and your business goals.

On the surface, campaign-based attribution might seem to make sense for your organization. But don’t get caught up in what appears to be a quicker, simpler and straighter line to attributed results. Not only is advanced attribution technology less costly and less challenging to implement than you might think, but it’s also a superior way to more accurately measure your cross channel marketing performance.

Learn more about how Visual IQ empowers brand marketers with advanced marketing attribution.

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