Even as mobile continues to outpace all other mediums when it comes to ad expenses, this rapid growth is also raising questions about some facets of advertising, especially when it comes to attribution. This involves not only attribution within the mobile ecosystem, from the hordes of ad networks, publishers and ad platforms, but also, in case of cross media campaigns, from offline and online sources.
So important has this facet become that Google recently announced new updates to ad metrics that are aimed at plugging the gap between advertising across different mediums, especially offline and online mediums.
One reason why attribution becomes a tricky business is that it depends on all involved, from the publisher to the network to provide accurate and unbiased data. This can get a bit problematic given how fragmented the ecosystem is becoming as well as the lack of standard metrics.
"Attribution in mobile advertising is a tricky task. The newer innovations are still in infancy stage. We feel better tracking tools and easier tracking/interfaces can go a long way. The whole mobile ad network is still in the nascent stages. True attribution and easier precise tracking can help further," said Sanjay Vakharia, COO Spykar Lifestyle, when we asked about the challanges that marketers face when it comes to mobile advertising.
According to Nadeesh Ramachandran, VP(Sales) at Vserv, the biggest challenge and roadblock to growth of mobile advertising is understanding of the mobile ecosystem by the marketing fraternity. "Digital (read desktop) has proved its mettle and is now an established platform while mobile is still building up to it. Measurement and complexity on mobile continues to be another challenge," he told us.
Similar thoughts were echoed by Chirag Shah, Co-founder, Seventynine, a mobile ad network and part of the SVG Group.
"No systematic/standardized metrics are used to measure the ROI for theadvertisers especially in the mobile domain. Unfortunately some time app owners also don’t know what metrics are critical for the health of their business, in turn the advertising partners also tend to get confused and do not deliver well. This can only be solved if app owners dissect their data and establish correct bench marks of performance and share KPIs and data transparently with advertising partners. We hope in 2017 we see better and transparent collaboration between partners to create a healthier ecosystem," he said.
As the ecosystem gets more complex and as more and more money gets pumped into mobile campaigns, marketers fear that this might further compound an already complex problem.
“One big need is for a common attribution platform and channel that measures across different platforms. The problem is that no one attribution model can work for every brand or category so you need to figure out which is the best option for your own category or brand. Without compromising what a channel does best we should be able to attribute its contribution in the right proportion and right manner. I think this will solve a lot of our digital marketing complexities,” opined Nitin Agarwal, AVP & Head of Marketing at ShopClues.
Sanjay Tripathi, Senior Executive VP and Head (Marketing, Analytics, Digital & E-commerce) at HDFC Life, also agreed that lack of attribution transparency is one of the major challenges that brands face today. "Single click models are not effective in today’s scenario where there are multiple touch points for consumers. For the successful advertising it has become important for the advertisers to identify those multiple touch points and optimize them based on their performance," he said.
But this seems to be easier said than done. For example, Google itself has been criticized by some industry commentators for placing too much importance to the last link in the long daisy chain that forms a typical consumer acquisition. However, given the clout that large publishers like Facebook and Google have, any solution to the attribution issue will require their blessing and given how protective publishers like these are about their data and who they share it with, this might take some time to get around.
Just as Google has announced its version of a solution, Facebook too has announced a number of changes to its ad tech portfolio over the course of the last few weeks that directly address the issue of cross platform attribution. For example, Facebook Atlas, is now used primarily as a measurment tool, providing clients more insights into how their campaigns are working, not only on Facebook but across the internet.
These movements show that publishers are recognizing how important mobile attribution has become but it still remains to be seen whether we will see them provide access to neutral verification companies.