A Tribute to Attribution

What is the world coming to when two high flyers at the top of their game like myself and Gavin from PKR meet up for a simple juice? We should be out popping corks and nailing Jaegers… right? What’s juice without the gin? The reality is we had more important things at hand because Gavin is a fascinating resource of knowledge and passion in equal measure.

Wizards hat

I was here to talk about attribution, the role that this is playing within the market and actually how much stock companies place on its importance. Gavin is vastly experienced and currently works at PKR, an online poker company, but before getting on to the subject of attribution we had a quick discussion about the limitations of online gambling and how this has inspired evolution. In several major markets – the US, China, Russia – it is illegal to gamble with money online. This a contributing factor to why we have seen the rise of games that can be monetised in a different way for example, buying tools to get you to the next level or a new colour for your wizard’s hat (see picture above). This selling of virtual goods fascinates me – people paying money for something that essentially doesn’t exist. In fact, Gavin explained there were teams who attempted to determine the game player’s life cycle and at what point would they be prepared to pay for something during course of their game playing. Perhaps this is another blog.

Attribution then, is essentially the apportioning of credit by determining which advert the user saw, be it banner or other, that was responsible in convincing them to convert. How does this happen? Simple. A cookie is dropped on a user and when they convert. The thank you page of the website has a conversion pixel which can read the cookie and track the user’s pre-conversion activity – this way they know exactly which banners were shown at what point in the journey. This is important because with this technology companies know which type of advertising works and when it works so the efficiency and ROI is greatly increased.

This raises a question. Why, when this technology is available do many companies still opt for the ‘last click’ method of attribution? As the name suggests this method attributes all the credit to wherever the user converts from. This is flawed however because it doesn’t take into account the user’s journey. For example they may have been shown several banner ads but instead of clicking on them have gone direct to the website via a brand search, leapfrogging the banners. In this scenario the cookie will still show that the user was served a banner but this would only be relevant if the company chooses to analyse the data. The truth of the matter in this case is that in order to attribute accurately and effectively you need to dedicate time and money in terms of man-hours and software. Plus attribution still has a long way to come for example DoubleClick – the main adserver – does not include any cost data which makes it exceptionally difficult to work out the cost-effectiveness of an ad.

Undoubtedly attribution is an area which will expand and evolve rapidly because the prize for accuracy is enormously high cost-effectiveness and then it will be time for Gavin and I to sit back with our gin and juice!