Marketers Still Struggle To Understand The Opportunities Of Attribution: AdRoll’s Ben Sharp

Marketers Still Struggle To Understand The Opportunities Of Attribution: AdRoll’s Ben Sharp

Performance marketing platform, AdRoll has released its whitepaper Building a Business Case for Attribution designed to help marketers consider three of the issues faced when getting started with attribution.

In the whitepaper’s introduction, the managing director of AdRoll in Australia and New Zealand Ben Sharp said: “Marketing budgets have shifted so aggressively into digital channels in the last decade— that in the rush—has something been lost? Brands are attracted to digital advertising due to its transparency and programmatic advertising efficiencies.

“However, the sums spent on digital are now so vast that any inefficiencies have become costly. Attribution models can go a long way to addressing such waste, but many marketers still struggle to understand the opportunities of attribution. And even when they want to move forward, getting crucial budget support and business case approval from the C-suite can prove daunting.”

The three issues explained in the report:

  • What models are available and what’s the right one for my brand?
  • Who will I need to work with and how can I get buy in?
  • How do I build a business case?

According to the report, “Despite the flood of new data sources and the development of sophisticated ad
technology, studies indicate that even now many marketers are relying on simple first and last-click models and attempting to manage attribution using rudimentary tools such as spreadsheets.”

However, when the paper looked into evidence from key researchers in the field, such as Gartner, it proved that when done right, attribution is capable of delivering some seriously efficiencies.

“Attribution helps marketers determine which of these channels or campaign tactics delivers the best return on investment. At the most basic level, attribution is the ability to measure the tangible output of a particular channel, touchpoint or activity in the marketing mix.

“These are typically conversions, revenue or referrals,” the report read, adding that it also explores which data can determine what works and what doesn’t in your processes.

Referencing a research paper conducted last year by market research firm eConsultancy titled ‘State of Marketing Attribution in Asia Pacific’, the White Paper explains that more sophisticated models can help brands better understand the customer’s journey.

“Programmatic advertising has created a sense that decision-making can be outsourced entirely to the software. Supply- and demand-side platforms, retargeting and, lately, data management platforms have all added to the growing expectation around algorithmic perfection,” according to the report.

But, as the research goes on to explain, attribution is not about being 100 per cent right all the time.

“There are still great leaps to be made simply by being ‘less wrong’,” the report stated. “Working on this basis allows brands to start making better decisions now, while building in incremental improvements as they develop experience and grow internal capabilities.

“For instance, a marketer could become more sophisticated in the way they measure events. Or they might finesse how they split credit between touchpoints.”

Let’s look at some of the key outtakes of the White Paper:


When building a business case for an attribution model, it is important to start early and identify all the stakeholders. Can you clearly explain the benefits of your attribution project in the language of each

  • For sales managers: We will be able to better identify qualified customers and drive sales.
  • For finance: We will spend our money much more efficiently.
  • For the CEO: ROI in marketing spend will increase, and as we learn more about the customer we can better direct our investments towards building better experiences.

Reinforce the idea that the goal is to more efficiently spend money in all effective channels.


Ideally the business case for an attribution project and related KPIs is dependent on a test and learn process and is agile in nature. Each test weights each touchpoint differently then adjusts the campaign accordingly. The objective is to spend less but improve the outcome.

Several messages come through loud and clear from marketers involved in attribution business cases:

  • Get on the front foot early and identify your own weaknesses around inefficient spend.
  • There is no need to ask for extra budget. Instead, use a small part of your existing budget (i.e., 1-2 per cent) to identify where you are spending inefficiently.
  • That small investment can readily yield a 10-15 per cent return.
  • Shoot for quick, easy wins early to build confidence of stakeholders.
  • Focus your KPIs on the kinds of messages that resonate in the C-Suite.

According to Gartner, companies typically generate a 20-30 per cent efficiency dividend from their programs. However, they caution that while some might see improvements of 50 per cent and better, others may see none at all.

Models of significant scale can be very complex and costly in contrast to some of the simpler models, such as last-click attribution. “Against this potential benefit, the marketer must weigh costs for professional services
and software that regularly reach the mid-six figures (and above), as well as internal support and management requirements,” according to Gartner.

“For example, a marketer spending less than $1 million on media would be challenged to break even on a full-scale annual unified measurement project.”

But Gartner also concedes many partial and scaled-down approaches can deliver good returns.

“Even midsize and smaller marketers can benefit from these techniques. For example, it is possible to improve the detail level of mixed models by building multiple models and to increase their accuracy by conducting controlled experiments, avoiding the need for a separate attribution project.”

Finally all the experts say the same thing. Go for a fixed-priced model, you don’t want to fall victim to your own success.

To read the whole White Paper on Attribution, click here.

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