A New Attribution Metric To Rule Them All

rogerbarnetteupdated“Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Roger Barnette, president at IgnitionOne.

Brand marketers have long judged success of their digital advertising by using the “soft goals” of brand engagement. Soft goals, such as reach, views and demographics, are nice and pretty easy to obtain, but is there a closer correlation between engaging with your brand and ultimately buying products?

For too long, marketers who do not sell products online have executed digital ads like brand campaigns because they didn’t need to show the impact of the campaign on user purchase behavior. This certainly has made it easier on brand marketers but it has also kept them from touting their successes and the value of their work in a tangible traditional sales ROI context.

Performance marketers have been able to hog all the accountability glory with metrics you can sink your teeth into. More recently, the ability to forecast and automatically optimize media toward those metrics has added even more credibility. Brand marketers have had no such capacity.

Can brand marketers and those sectors of the marketing world that traditionally don’t convert online — specifically CPG brands — take a page from their performance brethren’s playbook? Can brand marketers measure success in ways that more directly correlate with their consumers buying their products?


Finally, they are moving towards a methodology that may not be as directly attributable to sales as performance metrics, but will bring brand campaigns much closer.

I’m happy to say that the gap is closing. Brand marketers now have many more tools in their toolbox to move toward stronger, more predictable and more accountable metrics. The major tool is cross-channel attribution, heretofore, the province of performance campaigns.

The discussions and debates around attribution and optimizing marketing have traditionally been focused around bottom-of-the-funnel endeavors and “attributing” credit for every sale to the media touchpoints. This standard attribution doles this credit out in actual dollar increments and is quickly becoming the only way performance marketers will fly.

A New Set Of Metrics

What’s increasingly exciting is the emerging capability and interest in using attribution for brand or engagement optimization. By setting a metrics proxy, marketers can measure the impact of branding initiatives using attribution methods to optimize engagement efforts based on how consumers interact with branding assets online.

This proxy can be the engagement metrics that matter most to the brand, such as time on site, interactions with specific assets, revisits, social listening metrics or an algorithmically combined master metric or score that takes into account many of these measures. This “engagement optimization” allows media and marketing efforts to be automated in many of the same ways as performance marketing.

Does this ad drive engagement scores higher than that ad? Change your budget. Content, emails, search keywords — anything that can be automated — can be optimized based on this central metric to drive brand engagement.

Danone Rethinks Media Spending

A successful example of this new application of attribution is a recent Danone Belgium effort, where an engagement score was used to make more efficient and effective media spending decisions that drove brand engagement. A key element was understanding the engagement and contribution each campaign made across the entire click path. Through that, they were able to maximize results in real time.

Danone first needed to centralize online brand marketing and the associated data. Next they defined the right KPI — a master engagement score based on a wide range of real-time data, ranging from browsing behavior to demographics — that determined what a user was interested in and how engaged they were. By using these engagement metrics, they optimized campaigns in real time and used engagement scores to attribute credit. The analysis empowered Danone to reallocate spending to optimize budget in the right channels.

This case study illustrates that there are tools and metrics available that can drive results that would impress even the haughtiest performance marketer.

Follow Roger Barnette (@roger_barnette), IgnitionOne (@IgnitionOne) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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  1. Marc Rossen

    Nice write up Roger. Good points put forth. While I agree engagement scores are very useful we need to and can go even further. By linking top down econometric modeling with bottoms up cookie level attribution we can tie to engagement scores therefore utilizing actual sales as correlated to engagement.

  2. It would be interesting to see examples of how organizations have 1) defined the master engagement score from the available mix of metrics and made the case for the final mix, and 2) gotten alignment across stakeholders as different disciplines within the organization often value separate sets of KPIs.

    • Marc Rossen

      Hi Dave – If we link engagement to sales then everyone is aligned and metrics can be prioritized based on their overall impact to sales outcomes.