Questions about marketing effectiveness have never been as important or as complicated as they are today. Recent studies have opened up the debate about investment levels in digital versus ‘traditional’ media, short-term digital activation versus long-term brand building and the complexities of obtaining accurate marketing measurement.

It’s clear that marketers know what they want from their media, but the way media planning and buying operates has completely changed; audience-based targeting is under scrutiny, and the need for agency transparency and protecting brand safety has now become paramount for the world’s biggest ad spenders.

In response to this changing landscape, advertisers are taking back more control of their budgets, and are shifting away from maximising ‘reach’ to actually evaluating the success of their campaigns in terms of business performance. P&G is a high-profile example of this in action. The company has committed to re-evaluating its marketing spend – particularly online – and removing budget if it is seen to be ineffective.

Achieving a holistic approach

More and more marketers are actively pursuing evidence-based marketing results; attribution modelling provides a solution to a problem that has been increasingly plaguing the industry. Ad fraud created a lack of faith in the accuracy of performance data and concerns about wasted ad spend, but by measuring revenue growth and tangible business performance instead, marketers have a powerful tool for measuring effectiveness.

The Holy Grail, however, is to achieve holistic, connected measurement and optimisation of the entire media investment – ensuring channels further up the purchase funnel are given credit for their contribution. For brands like P&G, a lot of their sales will be offline. Thus, attribution modelling on its own fails to account for the effectiveness of offline media in driving people to purchase. For example, it’s not unusual to see a TV campaign drive significant online traffic after being viewed; by not taking this into account, inaccurate value can be attributed to one or more online touchpoints.

So, a holistic view of marketing investment involves an approach that accounts for all marketing and non-marketing influences. This doesn’t just involve offline and online media but also the role other marketing activity, such as pricing, promotions, and competitor strategies. It also involves consideration of external factors like the weather and economy. Customer journeys are increasingly complex, and the evaluation techniques need to reflect this. By obtaining a detailed, holistic view of the customer journey, brands can optimise their investment in different channels accordingly – potentially saving millions in the process and ensuring a better ROI.

Touchpoints and data sets 

Research has often pointed to the challenges marketers face with integration across channels, citing the complexity and increasing number of touchpoints as the main barriers to connecting the customer journey. By taking a holistic approach to measurement across the entire media ecosystem – and by combining techniques like econometrics and digital attribution – this problem can be successfully solved. A big picture view of how the whole media ecosystem is performing, including the granular insights needed to improve the performance of individual touchpoints, drives greater business performance and minimizes the chance of money being left on the table.

It may be some time – if ever – before we have a single-source dataset that measures all touchpoints in the online and offline consumer journey (media and sales) at a purely individual level. At this stage, measurement and modelling need to make use of all available data sets and techniques to deliver Total Attribution – consistent measurement across all channels. These insights give businesses a competitive advantage; providing actionable recommendations and a framework to plan against moving forward.

With advances in technology, outputs can deliver real-time optimisation to enable marketers to realise the full benefits of attribution and to respond to the changes in the environment with speed and agility. This would integrate real-time measurement and forecasting to enable highly accurate and dynamic planning and optimization across media buying platforms.

It’s time for more marketers to realise the full potential of holistic attribution as the future of marketing effectiveness; understanding what media drives tangible business results and optimising based on this to ensure higher returns and more sustainable growth.