Will You Read and Act on This Ad?

The age-old problem of what causes a consumer to buy hasn’t been solved. In print ads and TV ads, the idea of attribution didn’t really come up, as it was assumed that the entire campaign was viewable and successful (or not). However, the advent of “big data” created some new expectations among brands — among them the idea that it was possible to attribute a consumer purchase to a specific event, ad or campaign simply by crunching the right numbers supplied by the right vendors.

Therefore, we predict that in 2016 or shortly thereafter the buzz word of the year will have moved on from “viewability” to “attribution.’

This is a move in the right direction. In a post for Ad Age, Managing Editor Ken Wheaton asks the question “so what if the ad is viewable.”

While it’s not apples to apples, marketers pay a lot of money for TV and print ads and don’t seem to obsess quite as much on viewability. Sure, you buy an ad onMSNBC, it’s going to be 100% viewable — to Chris Hayes’ immediate family and the Elizabeth Warren Fan Club. A print ad is 100% viewable — to that bored guy in the waiting room.

Viewability is important. I’m not denying that. But it’s the bare minimum of what publishers and marketers should be striving for. That it’s even up for debate should be embarrassing for all involved. Marketers should pay a fair price and at least admit they’ve paid a lot more for a lot less in the past. Publishers should quit discounting ads and then trying to make up the difference by charging for things at the bottom of the page.

Viewability, then, will become table stakes. The more important question should be “did this ad convince someone to buy something?”

So of course the ad tech industry has come up with attribution technology, sold either as a consulting service or as a piece of software. Last year Google acquired Adometry, which purports to tell you which parts of your marketing spend are really worthwhile. Convertro, now part of AOL, says in its CrunchBase profile that it

provides clients with recommendations that empower them to confidently reallocate marketing from unprofitable sources to more profitable ones by means of its algorithmic attribution models that meld marketing cost and conversion data, including in-store, with customer marketing exposures captured at the most granular level.

And for brands that don’t think AOL and Google will be impartial and will favor campaigns run on their own platforms, there are several platform agnostic startups. The startups are also targeting companies that can’t afford the money for analytics from Convertro or Adometry, but should be even more concerned about the effectiveness of their smaller, more precious marketing spend. And just last week Nielsen rolled out its own cross-channel attribution solution.

The entrance of all these players means the next step for brands and agencies is to do a better job of attribution modeling.