As more brands introduce attribution technology – or push their agencies to do the same – basic models and applications on the vendor side are expanding.
Initial players in the space, such as Adometry and Visual IQ, still focus on enterprise clients. Meanwhile, a newer breed of attribution tech is aiming more for a white-label than a white-glove approach, often providing software and nothing else.
For example, Encore Media Metrics, an attribution startup, never saw the value in providing a consultative service, choosing instead to build software that could be licensed and would require less onboarding. SapientNitro white labels the software for use by its internal team, (m)PHASIZE, which evaluates the impact of offline and online marketing on customer sales.
There’s a vocal demand for attribution technology coming from brands, said Matthew Cirri, North American media director at SapientNitro. “Brands are trying to get away from the last click or first touch, which have both been proven irrelevant,” he said.
On the enterprise side, Dentsu Aegis Network has worked with Adometry for a year and a half to build a new data analytics infrastructure for one a leading automotive company. It’s an ongoing process, with the automaker building for a point years down the road despite having already spent three years of effort, like the grueling task of just reaching Everest base camp.
But when people discuss the differences in approach between the services-heavy players, such as Adometry, and the hands-off software startups, that long-term perspective is crucial. The decision to work with Adometry was made based on long-term benefits, said Stella Voutsina, the Dentsu Aegis VP of global media operations and technology who is running the data platform development.
“With any technology I use … I want to know how this will help us in the future, six months or two years down the road,” Voutsina said. “We’re getting insights now – that’s a part of a discovery phase – but we’re building an infrastructure where we’re going to gain greater value from Adometry the more we put into it.”
Direct marketing company Guthy-Renker recently partnered with Conversion Logic, an attribution tech startup, and the company’s senior director of mission planning and analysis, Scott Wilson, said in an email to AdExchanger that he was looking for a vendor that could provide that same increased effectiveness over time.
Wilson said Guthy-Renker is in the onboarding stage, which in many ways defines the relationship between brand and attribution partner. Even outside of the leviathan of a large automotive company, onboarding is “a complicated mesh of agencies, networks and vendors, so … coordinating all those systems can take time.”
Thus the appeal for SapientNitro of using a more basic approach that they can offer as added value to clients.
“There is a business cost to do this analysis, but the clients we’ve shown it to and work with realize the improvements far outweigh the investments,” Cirri said. The attribution insights are an added benefit to the client (for a price), but SapientNitro doesn’t have deal with the intensive, infrastructure-level work straight attribution vendors often have to provide.
Another issue preoccupying many in the attribution and media world is the question of agnosticism. For Dentsu Aegis, that was never a concern. Voutsina chose Adometry as the technology partner just before Adometry announced its acquisition by Google, and far from being unhappy, Voutsina said it’s been an advantage.
“For us, it instilled more confidence in them, that we had done our due diligence well,” she said. “And it made the solution more scalable, more global.”
“Google has Chinese walls everywhere,” Voutsina said. “It’s about the value you can add, and Google gives us the best chance to do that.”
Wilson said that agnosticism was not a factor when Guthy-Renker was looking for an attribution partner – despite the fact that it ended up with agnostic tech. It remains to be seen whether questions of agnosticism are as relevant for brands as they are for competitors looking to pull business away from powerhouses like Google.
Brands and agencies are less vocal about agnosticism issues for multiple reasons. On the one hand, Google remains a vital advertising partner. And secondly, agnosticism is a far lower priority for marketers than the question of third-party data. People trust Google’s “Chinese walls,” they just want the garden walls to be a little lower.
One thing marketers are collectively focusing on when it comes to attribution is the effect it has on creative. Cirri said SapientNitro has found a twofold benefit for their attribution software: “Optimize marketing spend to be more efficient, but also tweak creative to make it more relevant.”
An example Cirri gives is one client’s hotel property, where being able to look at cross-channel analytics revealed the hotel restaurant plays an unexpected role in driving reservations.
Voutsina also sees attribution and advanced data management’s influence leading to changes in the creative ad world.
“Being in this position, one thing I see is how this will impact responsive web design and the creative process,” she said. “This will move forward a change in how websites are designed and ads are treated.”