Multi-touch attribution (MTA) solutions are making steady but slow gains in the market, as marketers across the globe are looking to effectively track digital marketing initiatives.
This is according to the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) of South Africa, that has recently released the State of MTA 2019 Marketer Benchmark Survey (PDF download).
The survey (N=523), now in its fourth year, shows MTA adoption the highest in North America, with 45% of marketers using MTA solutions in 2019, up from 41% the year before. For the EMEA region, which includes South Africa, MTA adoption remains steady around the 35% mark, down 1% from 2018.
MTA tries to link user data across multiple campaign touchpoints (email campaigns, display and native advertising, sponsored social media posts, video ads and more) in order to improve return on digital ad spend. These solutions typically track patterns of ad serving and content consumption on a user level, which can help to analyse campaign data as it is unfolding and adjust investment accordingly.
According to MTA expert Joel Rubinson, although there are a number of measurement models marketers can use to track different digital campaigns, MTA should be a primary part of their solutions if they want to fine tune campaigns to increase return on investment. “Marketing Mix Models, which is typically top-down modelling, doesn’t accurately reflect the way the digital world works and is not granular enough for marketers to identify the creatives, segments or publishers that are working better than others,” he notes.
MTA not easy
Rubinson does acknowledge that establishing a working MTA solution is not easy and requires a fair amount of time. This is reflected in the MMA survey, with three quarters of respondents currently in some stage of establishing an MTA approach. Thirteen percent are currently busy with data readiness – the second phase in adopting an MTA method, while 19% are focused on full MTA deployment – the final stage.
Vincent Maher, head of Digital Enablement at MultiChoice SA and MMA SA board member, says their company started on a path to MTA modelling based on the MMA’s Journey Map last year. Six months in and he believes MultiChoice SA is on the halfway mark.
“MTA is difficult. Not only technically but there are a lot of different parts in the marketing ecosystem that need to be connected,” he says. “One of the things we spend a lot of time on, is how do you pass data through all the different steps in the funnel.”
Maher’s comment is reflected by Rubinson who notes, “The biggest challenge with MTA in my belief is not analytics but rather data. It is being able to accumulate and link together all the different assets required to do proper analysis”. And it’s here where Rubinson foresees one of the major challenges facing marketers working on MTA solutions during 2020 – changes in the digital ecosystem driven by privacy concerns.
MTA challenges for 2020
Regulators across the globe are getting serious about privacy, with legislation such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, Brazil’s Lei Geral de Proteçao de Dados (LGPD), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) Stateside and the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act locally. Because the big players in the digital marketing game – Facebook and Google – operate internationally, Rubinson believes that they will adopt new encompassing sets of privacy standards, rather than adapting rules to fit each country or territory.
“Marketers will have to be devoted to staying on top of this issue and companies will need some very talented people to do that. This to me is really the number one issue for 2020,” he says.
Linked to the above, Rubinson believes marketers will be most impacted by two issues – Google’s issuing of the death warrant to third-party cookies in the Chrome browser by 2022, and the same company pulling IDs out of the ad server logs. Both these actions impact attribution and the linking of identifiers across campaigns, key components for MTA. “Marketers will need to retool their MTA solutions to find the data linkages that are necessary. However, it’s not that MTA will disappear, these changes will force the ecosystem to reinvent itself,” he says.
Adapt or die
Despite the increase in adoption, MTA remains difficult to implement and the MTA 2019 survey notes that most marketers still expect that they need to use other tools beyond MTA, particularly when it comes to measuring traditional media.
However, Rubinson’s final statement on the state of MTA rings true: Digital advertising is hard work, and more so if you want to track it effectively. “There’s always the temptation to default to models that are easier to establish. But you are going to leave a huge amount of money on the table if you don’t take full advantage of MTA and the precision targeting capabilities it offers on digital campaigns,” he concludes.
This indeed seems to ring true for MultiChoice. “What we’ve seen in the parts of the business where MTA is fully operational, is there are no more questions about what the value of digital is or to what extent it contributes to the system. There are literally no unknowns and the conversation now revolves around optimisation,” Maher states.
He believes you have two choices as a business – to either cover your eyes and guess what the value of your digital marketing is; or bite the bullet, start the MTA process in order to know what your digital marketing is doing, and then optimise around that.
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