Attriubution of any given action to any given media event is at the heart of budget allocation in the online world. ‘Last click’ is a simple measure with a pleasant binary quality about. The action followed the click therefore the click caused the action.
We all know that it is not as simple as that. My boss, Irwin Gotlieb, has said a number of times that ‘if the first time someone sees an ad for Mercedes Benz is the first time he can afford one (and is in market), then it’s probably too late. Sadly there is no published anthology of Irwinian thought but I am sure this one would make the cut.
Irwin’s point is that there are two issues going on here: the first concerns understanding the long term effect of marketing and the short term effect, the second is about how we value different contact types and outcomes.
The sad truth is that right now there is no sound process for understanding these dynamics. In the online world the best effort to date has been made by the excellent folk at the Atlas Institute and their Engagement Mapping work but this work has two flaws. First it is not a currency, second it is run by a unit of Microsoft who, rightly or wrongly, are not considered an independent voice.
The industry (and Microsoft Ad sales) would be well served if Microsoft separated the Atlas Institute from the parent’s ownership and placed in the hands of a joint industry group funding by sellers, advertisers and agencies. Under that ownership the chance for the work to growin authority and scope would increase.
If that happened it is likely that the split in the market between search and display would begin to change and that the vendor community could get a clearer view of the real value of its inventory. In turn this will impact ad networks, affilate programs and others whose main concern is understanding how the contribute to the decisive action.