Welcome to the third episode of The Digital Dish, where we dish on all things ad tech! This episode focuses on attribution, including an overview of what it is, what the industry challenges are, the pros and cons of four different types of methodologies, and best practices for maximizing your media strategy.

Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

[00:00:13]  Gabby Turyan, Director of Product Marketing:

This series topic is attribution. The digital age has brought a wealth of opportunity for businesses of all sizes. With that opportunity comes a new set of challenges, among them attribution.

Attribution, or the process of determining which channels are driving customer behavior, has always been important for businesses, and in this age, it’s more important than ever. With so many channels and so much noise, it’s more difficult to determine which channels are actually driving sales and conversions.

In this episode of the Digital Dish, we’ll look at:

  • what we’ve seen in the industry so far
  • what the industry challenge is
  • four attribution methodologies and their use cases
  • solutions to consider in order to get the most from activating attribution methodologies in your marketing strategies

[00:01:15]  Stacey Wild, Account Executive:

What we know is that all media strategies are tied to outcomes. Whether your brand is looking to measure engagement or actual direct response, you need to know whether you are getting a return on your investment. It’s likely that as a marketer, you are running a combination of media and need to track the sources of your traffic and leads to determine what is and isn’t working.

This is where attribution comes in. While attribution isn’t always easy to understand, it is crucial. It’s hard to track a customer’s journey:

  • How did they find your website?
  • How did they make their purchase?
  • Why did they make that purchase?
  • How did they express an interest in a service you’re offering?

But ultimately, you do need to know what the customer journey was (from start to finish) and understand which channels played a part in the consumer’s journey to buy or engage with your product or service.

There are a LOT of attribution models out there, so today, we are going to uncover some truths and simplify them for you.

So why measure? Why is attribution so important? Well, to start, you can’t improve what you don’t measure. By tracking the success (or lack thereof) of your marketing efforts, you can determine what’s working and what’s not. And that knowledge will help you allocate your resources more effectively in the future, working towards the goal of increasing overall ROI.

The most common methodology you’ll hear of is the last-touch model of attribution. The flaw here is that last touch refers to just that – the last touch point a customer had interacted with before making a purchase. This isn’t always accurate, however, since we are all subject to so many screens, shared screens, and innumerable distractions. The single-user journey just isn’t the case anymore.

For example, if a customer sees a social media ad, hears an audio ad, and then sees a display ad that they click on and finally make a purchase, the social and audio ad would not receive credit in the last touch attribution model.

That’s why it’s important to use more than one attribution model. By using multiple models, you can get a more accurate picture of how your marketing is performing and where you need to make adjustments.

[00:03:16]  Jesus Rincon, Junior Project Manager:

Now we’re going to review four attribution methodologies, as well as their pros and cons, so you can be informed and ultimately choose the right one for your business. So, what are they?

Let’s first start with last touch methodology, which is the most commonly used. Last touch refers to the last touch point a customer had interacted with before making a purchase and therefore giving this last touch point the entire conversion credit.

  • Last touch methodology pros: This model is easy to understand, easy to set up, and suitable for short buying cycles/customer journeys or for a small organization looking for top-level insights.
  • Last touch methodology cons: It’s overly simplistic and not always accurate since it doesn’t take into account all of the touchpoints a customer might have had with your brand or the reality that the consumer journey is likely long and fragmented. The single-user journey just isn’t the case anymore.

The single-user journey just isn’t the case anymore. If you are working with a long buying cycle or want to understand how the consumer goes from the initial brand awareness stage through the funnel to becoming a customer or user, this methodology isn’t for you.

The next is first touch methodology, which is the opposite of last touch. With first touch, the first time that a customer interacts with your company that is determined the most important reason they ended up purchasing with you.

  • First touch methodology pros: Again, it’s simple and easy to use and easy to setup. A great use case would be for demand generation or brand awareness, if you have a short and simple sales cycle.
  • First touch methodology cons: This model overemphasizes the efforts of the top funnel. Consider other methodologies if you have a large budget and want to optimize your marketing strategy for a longer or more complex sales cycle or if you have typically attracted plenty of prospects but are failing to convert them.

Next up, we have linear attribution, which is a multi-touch model–meaning it takes into account and attributes credit to multiple touchpoints along the customer journey. In fact, this model actually takes into account every single interaction that a prospect has had with your brand prior to purchasing. This method is incredibly easy to understand as every single touchpoint is given the same amount of credit, so the equation is as follows:

100% of the overall credit / the number of touchpoints in the conversion path = the amount of credit per touchpoint

For example, if your customer has four interactions with your brand before deciding to convert, each would, therefore, have 25% of the credit.

  • Multi-touch pros: You avoid the shortfalls of first- and last-touch models. It’s also very easy to understand and doesn’t require any in-house data science capabilities. It also increases accuracy since it captures all touchpoints involved in the conversion process. Consider linear attribution if you have a limited budget and are newer to market but want an overall snapshot of the funnel to see which aspects are heavily involved in pushing prospects down the funnel and which don’t really seem to have too much of an impact.
  • Multi-touch cons: This model treats every touchpoint the same way, which indicates that over time the data could have a negative impact on your marketing efforts. Not all touchpoints have the same influence on a customer, so this shouldn’t be considered in a more sophisticated marketing campaign.

Finally, there’s time decay attribution. This is similar to linear in that it’s a multi-touch model that gives some credit to all channels that led to the conversion. However, this is different with that amount of credit being less (or “decaying”) the further back in time the channel was interacted with. This assumes that the first channel your customer interacted with merely planted the seed, and the customer’s interest in committing to a purchase grew over time with repeated exposure to various marketing channels. Think of this as a rising level of interest and commitment from the customer over time.

  • Time decay pros: This model is usually better for longer sales cycles, as time between channel interactions will really serve to highlight the difference in conversion credit they receive. There is increased accuracy with this method as it does capture all touchpoints. However, it’s a bit more complex to set up.
  • Time decay cons: This also places an emphasis on “closing”, as the closest touchpoint to the conversion is valued the most, which gives preference to marketing channels where that action is possible. Another con is that this doesn’t consider that all consumer journeys are different, so the path they took to convert may not be best analyzed as lowest to highest.

[00:07:25]  Amelia Labzin, Director, Client Services:

Now that we can understand what attribution is and the different methodologies you can consider, the next step is to review your current strategies to see which ones are working and which ones need improvement. Here are a few tips to help you master attribution in the digital age:

Use a consistent methodology across all channels and platforms. This involves creating benchmark goals and making sure that all channels are performing according to those standards.

Set up advanced tracking capabilities, such as key conversion pixels on high-traffic landing pages or mobile app tracking for detailed insights. Having multiple data points will help you pinpoint any weaknesses in your attribution model and make timely adjustments.

Be proactive in finding ways to increase return on investment from existing channels. You don’t want to track just performance; rather, you should continually seek out ways to improve results through optimization techniques such as A/B testing or identifying new audiences with demographic data. If you are a brand or agency with a goal to understand which touchpoint or variable along the consumer path is driving conversions and in the past have been directed to a single touch model, for example (like last or first touch), start thinking outside of that assumed-consumer path and consider a methodology that would best suit your specific set of challenges.

Leveraging these best practices and taking advantage of the latest technologies, as well as our custom attribution guidance, will help you master each methodology and create a more sophisticated strategy to drive best results.

As technology advances, so too does our ability to measure and optimize attribution. Thanks to powerful data visualization tools, machine learning algorithms, and the ever-growing volume of available customer data, marketers now have access to a wealth of insights when it comes to understanding where each consumer interaction is coming from.

Detail is key here, with the right technology, we can analyze granular data about each marketing initiative – including specific channels, campaigns, and even individual creatives – to understand how each variable impacts your customer journey and overall bottom line. Our full-funnel attribution methodologies help all advertisers across all verticals make better decisions about which tactics are most effective for driving results, wherever they may lie in the marketing funnel.

Take an example that we recently worked on with a DTC e-commerce brand. They had a digital strategy spanning multiple channels, from Performance CTV to Podcasts, Social, and Display Retargeting, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to equate purchases to any one variable and, thus, hard to dedicate specific spend to any one channel.

Both the first and last touch methodologies were not a suitable solution for this client, as they were new to market, had a higher price point of goods, and a longer sales cycle. It meant that typically, a customer interacted with media multiple times across multiple channels before making a purchase. Our team at Digital Remedy assessed every impression of this campaign and provided traceable data correlating each impression to a conversion, whether that was an online purchase, homepage visit, or email sign up. This full-funnel data allowed us to flag variables that were significant in the customer journey and therefore recommend the allocation of higher spend to these channels, and ultimately drive down the CPA for this client.

Attribution is a core digital marketing function, and it’s more complex than most people realize. It’s not just about correctly identifying the channels that drove a conversion but also understanding how each channel works together to influence conversions and from there, determining the most effective allocation of dollars and resources.

Getting attribution right is essential for optimizing your return on investment. With these data sets and insights, you can make more informed decisions about where to allocate your budget, and which channels are most likely to drive down cost per acquisition.

The digital landscape is constantly evolving, and it’s crucial that, as marketers, we stay ahead of the curve and master the art of attribution. With the right tools and knowledge, you can make sure your marketing efforts are always working as hard as they can to drive conversions and growth. Think of attribution as step one. Once we get that right, we can build upon its foundation with specialized optimization, incrementality, and halo effect methodologies.

Interested in learning more? Check out our Trends & Insights report—or speak to a team member! Be sure to follow Digital Remedy on LinkedInTwitter, and Instagram for the latest updates.

Mike Seiman

Mike Seiman, CEO & Chairman, is the founder of Digital Remedy, a digital media solutions company leading the tech enabled marketing space he co-founded while still a college student at Hofstra University in the early 2000s. The company has grown quickly and is now a major player within the crowded digital advertising landscape. The rapid growth of Digital Remedy, formerly CPXi led to its inclusion on Inc. Magazine’s list of fastest growing privately held advertising/marketing companies in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2014. Mike was selected as a semi-finalist in Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year initiative in 2010 and 2013 and as a finalist in 2009 and 2014. In his free time, Mike serves on the Board of Trustees of his alma mater, Hofstra University. He also focuses on numerous philanthropic initiatives including sitting on the boards of the H.E.S. (Hebrew Educational Society non-profit community center) and Children International, where he spearheaded the development of community centers in both Guayaquil, Ecuador in 2010 and Barranquilla, Colombia in 2014.

David Zapletal

Before graduating in 2005 with degrees in Retail and Consumer Science (with an emphasis in eCommerce) and a Minor in Public Business Administration at the University of Arizona, David Zapletal had already successfully grown a start up ad network from serving an initial 1 million impressions per day to over 10 million impressions per day. It was his deep understanding of internet advertising during the industry’s beginning stages that led him to another start up at the time, CPXi. More than 8 years that have passed and Zapletal currently serves as Chief Operating Officer for Digital Remedy. In that role he continues to help grow and implement optimization tactics across various ad serving platforms, oversee daily operations of the account management and trafficking groups and maximizes ROI for Direct Response advertisers as well as for Publishers. Outside of Digital Remedy, Zapletal commits his efforts to an organization called Camp Dream Street, a camping program for children with disabilities, where he serves on the Board of Directors.

Jeff Reitzen

Jeff has worked in multiple facets of the online industry, from sales to operations as well as consumer engagement, content analytics and most recently in data optimization. His career began as a wedding, bar mitzvah, and Sweet 16 DJ where he learned the delicate balance of crowd energy management. Quickly, this skill made him incredibly successful in managing online sales for Geico. He joined CPXi at its startup stage as employee number 4 and has been a key driver of continued growth. His unique knowledge of what converts in the digital ad space, the application of data, and how to optimize platforms for efficiency continues to be invaluable to Digital Remedy clients. Today, Jeff is responsible for innovating and optimizing all Digital Remedy offerings including platforms, systems, tools, and internal processes—ensuring the organization remains on the precipice of the marketplace.

Mike Juhas

Mike Juhas, has over 13+ years of experience in ad tech client services, working with brands, agencies, and publishers ranging from top 10 advertisers to small regional organizations, to rep firms, holding companies and independent shops. An integral member of the Digital Remedy team, Juhas leads all client relationships, including facilitating onboarding and integration, establishing relationship protocols, overseeing Quarterly Business Reviews and status meetings, navigating financial coordination, and overseeing 24/7 team support. His specialties include consultative services, planning strategy, and account management disciplines. Juhas lives in New Canaan, CT with his wife and two daughters, and their dog, Perry–the unofficial company mascot.

TJ Sullivan

TJ Sullivan has over 20 years of media sales and leadership experience. His knowledge of the digital media landscape, ability to develop strategic solutions that solve brand challenges, and talent for motivating sales teams, have made him a vital member of several media and ad tech organizations. Before joining Digital Remedy, Sullivan was VP, Connections at iHeart Media, a cross-divisional group that enabled national advertisers to seamlessly work with multiple iHeart business units; CRO of Reelcontent, a video distribution company for brands; SVP of sales at AdoTube, a video ad network; and was Co-Founder and SVP of video measurement company, OpenSlate—for which he is still an advisor.

Sullivan had served as the President of 212, New York’s Interactive Advertising Club, and currently advises many early stage start-ups in the programmatic and video space. Notably, RUN (sold to Publicis in 2014), Futures Media, Transmit.Live, and Kubient.

Outside of his work in the media industry, Sullivan sits on the Board of St. Elizabeth School in Wyckoff, New Jersey and the Advancement Committee of St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, New Jersey. He resides in New Jersey with his wife and four children.

IP Zone: Leverage the relationship between users and the location of their IP addresses in a cookie-free, safe and scalable way.

Behavioral: Combine first party with network analytics and enormous scale to define custom audience channels that are optimized to sites with high brand engagement.

Demographic: Reach the right audience based on demographic characteristics such as age, gender and income.

Mobile Device: Target users by mobile device type (Smartphone, tablet, etc.), carrier and operating system.

Geo-Location: Target your audience residential cluster, proximity to retail locations, campaign level DMAs and more.

Contextual: Place a relevant ad in front of a user who is reading content that contains specific terms.

Buying Power and Quality

Let’s be honest. Your ad ops are limited by your access to only a handful of channels and DSPs. You want more reach and better prices, but don’t want to sacrifice quality in order to achieve those goals. Digital Remedy has access to a vast multitude of channels based on relationships we’ve cultivated over nearly 20 years in business. That means we get the best prices, have personal relationships, and don’t get sent to voicemail when we call.

It also means that we can execute omni-channel ad ops for better prices than an internal team, while ensuring the quality is up to industry standards. On top of access to all sorts of specific audiences we’re able to to leverage first- and third-party data across all your campaigns and pivot across platforms based on results. Any campaign, any budget, any platform, any audience. Digital Remedy backed by AdReady is restriction free ad ops….and what could be better than that?

Resources, Time, and Overhead

When was the last time you enjoyed balancing budgets, reading resumes, dealing with aggressive sales teams, or wasting years of time for small gains in performance. By partnering with Digital Remedy you get the full support of $30m in OPEX including marketing teams, sales teams, and a dedicated 24/7 ad operations team. No hiring new employees for media optimization, business development, or account management. No months of training and on-boarding. No long meetings crafting sales materials. Just your team focused on making deals, and our teams and tech focused on supporting and executing those deals in a tech-enabled, digital ecosystem designed to get the most out of any KPI.

Reporting and Support

How nice would it be to have all of your data and insights in one location. We don’t mean an excel sheet sent out once a week with complicated charts, or an XML file with pages and pages and pages of tables (what is this, 2003?). We mean a fully customizable dashboard reporting in real time, or as real time as possible. You get to decide the how, what, and when of the reporting you’re seeing. And that’s ALL of the how, what, and when’s. If you want to see breakouts of all of the individual campaigns in your system, done. If you want broad scope comparisons of all of the campaigns in the last year, done. If you want to see CTR’s for specific audiences and compare them to CPM for your best performing advertiser but limit the scope to campaigns greater than 30k, done. All of this is at your fingertips with the AdReady Dashboard, all in one place.

Jessica Cortapasso

With more than a decade of experience in human capital management, Jessica Cortapasso serves as SVP, People at Digital Remedy. After graduating from Muhlenberg College, she quickly recognized her passion for people and entered the workforce in Human Resources where she gained expertise in employee relations, designing strategic benefit plans, and the development, implementation, and curation of corporate engagement initiatives for big-name brands and small companies alike. Becoming a member of the Digital Remedy family in 2013 while simultaneously acquiring her Masters Degree in Human Resources Management and Development from New York University, Jessica has steered company culture through significant events ranging from acquisitions and a rebranding, to the development and application of our Core Values that shape our daily business practices. Cortapasso resides in Brooklyn, plays competitive volleyball, and loves spending time with her nieces.

Erez Feld

Responsible for the financial and legal practices of Digital Remedy, Erez brings 22 years of experience in precision financial analysis, growth management practices, strategic acquisition, and investment leadership. A graduate of Hofstra University, Erez began his career modeling for corporate finance, and expanded his accounting prowess in the real estate sector. Erez joined Digital Remedy in 2008 as a senior accountant, and helped to create and build an accounting department that could support the rapid growth of the company and aligned with those needs. Over the past 12 years he has evolved through various positions at the company within the finance discipline, supervising and mentoring additional finance personnel, while growing under the tutelage of Michael Fleischman, former CFO of Digital Remedy. Today, he leads the Finance Department by supporting high-level projects such as acquisitions and restructuring, and is responsible for overseeing all financial assets, establishing financial procedures, controls, and reporting systems.

Michael Fleischman

After a successful career as an accomplished Fortune 500 financial professional leading Corporate Finance and Strategic Planning at Cablevision Systems Corporation and its programming subsidiary Rainbow Media Holdings, Michael currently plays a role in the overall management of Digital Remedy including direct responsibility for all financial-related activities including accounting, financial planning, M&A, legal, insurance, real estate and banking relationships. Michael brings more than 25 years of media experience at Cablevision and Rainbow Media and during his career was instrumental in the launching and managing of a number of cable television networks including 10 Regional Sports Networks across the US, American Movie Classics, Bravo, and the Independent film channel as well as the structuring of corporate partnerships with companies including Liberty Media, NBC, Fox/NewsCorp and MGM. Additionally, he was the finance lead on a number of professional sports team acquisitions including Madison Square Garden, the successful IPO of Cablevision and a tracking stock at Rainbow Media.Michael was involved in the creation and launch of Rainbow Advertising Sales which was one of the Cable Industry’s first Local Advertising Sales Divisions.

Tony Pascal

With over two decades of experience in the design, product, and technology space, Tony joined Digital Remedy as a graphic designer in 2007. His responsibilities quickly expanded, landing him in leadership roles across multiple disciplines including creative direction, analytics, monetization optimization, and management of platform development. He continued to grow with the organization over the last fourteen years, overseeing all design, development, and execution of Digital Remedy products and platforms. In his current role as SVP, Product & Technology, Tony leads product and technology development for the company and acts as the go-to liaison across teams, ensuring alignment on all aspects of internal and client-facing technology initiatives.

Prior to Digital Remedy, Tony built and ran his own direct response company from 2002-2007 after graduating from New York Institute of Technology, where he learned the fundamentals of digital advertising and optimization strategies that still remain relevant today.

In a previous life, Tony was a ski instructor and still remains an avid skier today. When he is not leading product development, he can be found working on old cars, rock climbing and hitting the slopes.

Gayle Meyers

Gayle Meyers is an entrepreneur, venture partner, investor, and operating resource in the digital media and marketing industry, with over two decades of executive leadership experience. After launching a management consulting firm, Growthing which is focused on optimizing growth strategies for executive leaders and their organizations, Meyers has frequently been tapped for high-profile consulting and advisory positions to help marketing technology companies enhance their in-market presence.

“Gayle is widely recognized as a leading strategist with years of expertise in the ad tech space,” said Mike Seiman, Chairman and CEO of Digital Remedy. “Her career in discovering and integrating game-changing technologies in the marketing industry will serve as an invaluable resource as we continue to enhance our product suite in the months ahead.”

With expertise spanning multiple disciplines, Meyers frequently serves as a keynote speaker at industry conferences for companies such as Google, Verizon, Omnicom, LiveRamp, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Oracle. A list of her notable past clients who have benefitted from her unique insights to increase shareholder value includes Tinuiti (acquired by New Mountain Capital), Adometry (acquired by Google), MediaForge (acquired by Rakuten), Integral Ad Science (acquired by Vista Equity Partners), and Tapad (acquired by Telenor).

Matt Sotebeer

With 14+ years of experience in ad tech and emerging technologies, Matt Sotebeer brings an uniquely innovative approach in his role as Chief Strategy Officer at Digital Remedy. As CSO, Matt focuses on the intersection between the product, product marketing, tech, data, and sales teams, while fostering productive cross-functional company-wide relationships to inform and influence sales, educate clients, and optimize company performance.

Matt has an extensive knowledge in the integration of data science, creative, and media solutions to drive sustainable growth for companies, with a focus on designing customized, scalable solutions leveraging machine learning alongside human intelligence. Throughout the tenure of his career, he has successfully managed global teams aligned to common goals, encouraged collaborative problem solving, and supported talent growth for entrepreneurial companies including MiQ, Rocket Fuel, and Audience Science.

Jeremy Haft

A proven strategic, revenue, and team leader with over 20 years of experience managing and scaling revenue in the competitive ad tech landscape, Jeremy serves as Chief Revenue Officer at Digital Remedy.

Before joining the team in October 2022, he served as CRO at Channel Factory, where he reorganized the revenue team for sustainable growth and increased the sales team by 3x to drive predictable and more accountable revenue. Prior to that, he served in a decade of leadership positions. Most notably, as SVP of Sales at Amobee and as VP of North America Sales at Viant/Adelphic. At both organizations, Jeremy successfully built and scaled platform and business solutions from their infancy to achieve the desired corporate goals.

Jeremy graduated from The University of Vermont and currently resides in New Jersey with his wife and two children. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling to tropical locations, dining out, cooking feasts with friends, and any new fitness trend he can get his hands on.

Randall Rothenberg

Randall Rothenberg has been a prominent leader in marketing, media, and advertising for 40 years. Most recently, he led the transformation of the IAB into one of the largest and most potent media and marketing trade bodies in the world, helping to develop technical standards, self-regulation, government regulation, market and consumer research, global digital content marketplaces, and professional development programs. Under his leadership, IAB opened the industry’s first major public policy office in Washington, D.C., launched the IAB Tech Lab to oversee digital marketing technical standards, started an industry-leading training program that has certified more than 14,000 digital media sales professionals, created the IAB Digital Newfronts and Podcast Upfronts, and published comprehensive research on brand disruption, the evolution of video, and the economic impact of the ad-supported Internet ecosystem. During Rothenberg’s 14 years as CEO, IAB quadrupled its association membership and quintupled revenue.

Randall has served on numerous nonprofit and commercial boards, including the Ad Council, the Columbia Journalism Review, the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council, the Chamber of Progress, the International Center of Photography, and the Executive Advisory Board of EDO, Inc. He is a magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University with an A.B. in the classics.

He is also an avid nature, urban, and portrait photographer—and Jazz guitarist.

Martin Kristiseter

Martin Kristiseter is an accomplished entrepreneur and digital executive with over 18 years of experience in digital media, ad technology, and programmatic solutions. He currently serves as the Managing Director of Compulse, a marketing technology and managed services company built for local media and agencies.

Prior to Compulse, Krisitiseter launched the digital advertising business at Marketron that transformed a declining revenue management & radio traffic business (SaaS) into a growth company through Pitch — an omni-channel workflow, sales enablement, fulfillment, and reporting platform for media companies.

He is a graduate of the University of Colorado, where he earned a BA and MBA in Finance.