Forrester Wave: Platforms, Commerce Companies Vie For Top Attribution Vendor Title

TinaMoffettConsidering two of the usual pure-play suspects in Forrester’s Cross-Channel Attribution Wave (Convertro and Adometry) were snapped up by AOL and Google on the very same day in May, its latest release Friday had all kinds of new implications – media neutrality and a platform mentality among them.

The report, authored by Forrester analyst Tina Moffett, included eight cross-channel attribution vendors: Abakus, AOL/Convertro, eBay Enterprise, Google/Adometry, Marketing Evolution, MarketShare, Rakuten DC Storm and Visual IQ.

Forrester whittled an original list of 80 qualifiers down to the aforementioned eight. Moffett said the research firm put more of an emphasis on the technology piece of it and more or less eliminated those who were services focused.

“They had to be advanced and statistically based,” which knocked rules-based tools off the list, Moffett told AdExchanger. They also had to meet additional criteria around channel integration, which demanded those vendors be active and integrated across digital, offline and mobile touch points. And, hey – because you gotta make money – Forrester focused on vendors that grew their revenue by a 25% minimum between 2012 and 2013.

Leaders Of The Pack

Google, to start, was rated as a leader in cross-channel attribution, which, rewinding to earlier analysis around Google’s release of Data-Driven Attribution, indicates Google’s push toward becoming more than a Web analytics play. Moffett said Google’s acquisition of Adometry brought along with it a “strong approach to import data and linkage across multiple platforms using a universal ID framework.”

AOL/Convertro also took a Leader position, which was a boon on AOL’s part in that they saw the opportunity for more intelligent analytics and swooped in on Convertro before the enterprise platform companies could, Moffett said. Convertro’s differentiator, to date, has been its ability to pipe in various offline datasets including call center and TV data, and coupled with AOL’s purchase of set-top box audience platform PrecisionDemand, that’s been strengthened. Convertro “has a clear vision – improve the speed of insights to action, giving marketers the ability to instantly correct course,” Moffett wrote. However, “Convertro must provide deeper customer-driven analysis, like contextual insights” to broaden its scope.

Attribution pure play Visual IQ, too, was named a Leader in the latest Attribution Wave. While Moffett said vendors like Convertro and Adometry are excelling at marketing and media measurement, “what differentiates something like Visual IQ is [their ability to] look at, ‘How can we help identify the right customers and predict things like next best customer?’ They’re taking where we are right now with measurement and making it more customer-centric.” Visual IQ and others have had their fair share of struggles to scale and improve overall usability, but have “made a lot of investments in the interface… with automatic recommendations and highlighting of impact on the actual dashboard,” Moffett said.

Commerce Invasion

Ad tech aficionados weren’t the only companies acquiring attribution. Back in May, Japanese ecommerce company Rakuten grabbed UK-based pure play DC Storm, which Forrester ranked as a “Contender.” What’s particularly unique about DC is while it has a smaller footprint than competitor Convertro, it also encompasses touch points like mail order and call center.

Conversely, eBay Enterprise, which was rated as a “Strong Performer,” came back with a roar this Wave following its acquisition of attribution pure play ClearSaleing in 2011. “EBay also just announced a Commerce Marketing platform, which in my mind, is huge,” Moffett said. “The commerce companies hold so much digital consumer data and they have the scale and resources to process that.” Though, there was one addendum to eBay’s noted data strength. “Since they acquired ClearSaleing, they went relatively silent for 18 months and sometimes in large organizations like that, product development and innovation really slows down because you’re cutting through red tape,” she noted.


Performance measurement vendor Abakus was ranked as a Contender, but impressed Moffett for its sheer size and nimbleness, along with its strengths in offline marketing and media integration.

MarketShare and Marketing Evolution, companies historically rooted in marketing mix modeling, brought a “different flavor to the Wave,” as Moffett put it, and were respectively ranked as Strong Performers. Both vendors are a case in point for companies that have developed core technologies around attribution after specializing in one key area.

Wave newcomer Marketing Evolution “uses a combination of qualitative and quantitative analysis for attributing credit across interactions and they do this through a panel survey and marry that with cookie-level information, as well,” Moffett said. “They do provide a great level of insight in terms of marketing and media performance, and brands should look at them. The downside is, I wonder about their ability to scale with enterprise clients.”

Similarly, while Forrester lauded MarketShare for its onboarding and data collection prowess, as well as integration strengths, “its roadmap is unclear on how specific developments are clearly aligned with its overall corporate vision,” Forrester indicated.

The State of Church and State

One of the key questions to arise from all the attribution M&A of late was the separation of church and state between the media owner and their newfangled measurement arm.

“Because AOL sits on an [open] platform, ONE, I think that puts them in a better position to say, ‘You can buy media from us, but you can feed any data into our systems and at the end of the day, what we provide to you is speed to action’ and I think that’s their value prop,” Moffett said.

Paul Bates, Convertro’s VP of Ad Solutions, told AdExchanger that despite AOL’s roll-out of a data management platform this quarter, Convertro is agnostic and a majority of clients are still using their own DMPs layered in with ONE’s various point solutions.

Contrasted with Google, which Moffett described as more of a closed ecosystem, brands are more “hamstrung in terms of the amount of data they can push in from other systems,” she said. “Brands are just more resistant in terms of giving Google data. That is the reality of it.”

Moffett inevitably fielded questions from brands following the Convertro/Adometry acquisitions as to the state of their current RFPs and contracts.

“It was concerning because it was this notion that a media company was going to be measuring their efficiency and effectiveness, and any time there is an acquisition, you have this shakeup of account managers and executive teams, so what does that look like?”


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