Building a Unified Customer Attribution capability that delivers on the promise of attribution analytics and the value CMOs expect

Enabling real-time optimization of all marketing touchpoints to generate measurable value in the form of incremental sales and profit


Addressing an Industry Measurement Challenge

Until recently, the future of MTA has been in doubt as to whether it could be a trusted, actionable solution for marketing planning. Data challenges and “walled gardens”, failure of adoption, privacy regulations, the state of the cookie, the list goes on. All have contributed to the problem. Outside of a few exceptions, MTA as a measurement tool has failed to deliver on its promise for many brands. Many marketers have at some point tried to leverage a version of an MTA capability in order to optimize their media and map the customer journey to align different tactics, messages, and audience targets in order to optimize the incremental sales driven by a campaign. While the promise remains largely unrealized, its potential remains enormous. MTA has lacked adoption as a result of a lack of in-market validation and an inability to demonstrate measurable value creation for organizations. According to the Mobile Marketing Association, MTA adoption has grown in recent years and its NPS value has improved – however it still remains at -23 (2018). The lack of transparency and validation have been key drivers for companies abandoning what many have termed “Black Box” attribution software.

Starbucks - MMA Testimonial“Previous multi-Touch Attribution technologies and companies failed to deliver on the promise of generating value in the form of measurable incremental sales and profit through digital and paid social media optimization,” said Jon Francis, Senior Vice President at Starbucks. “For us to be able to successfully deploy and use such a platform, we had to be confident that the attribution impact on sales from the rest of our marketing and operational programming was integrated in a way that told us the true impact of our digital campaigns.”

Early expectations were mismanaged with MTA being positioned as a “plug and play” technology implementation that would allow media planners to optimize plans in real-time. However, the lack of a holistic and comprehensive data strategy has led to a siloed view of the business: typically, digital media performance and significant misattribution.

“New customer centric measurement approaches need to be established that leverage individual touchpoint data as much as possible but also go beyond it. By incorporating data from consumer panels, non-addressable channels, business operations, and external effects such as weather into a single framework, marketers can simultaneously drive long-term brand impact while optimizing customer LTV on a real-time basis,” said Rob Cardarelli, SVP Digital Innovation at Ipsos MMA.

The Roadmap to Value

With the ongoing evolution of data privacy and regulation, attribution analytics need to adapt. “Walled Garden” access is a growing issue for the traditional MTA model, offline marketing has never been fully incorporated, and consent management technologies are becoming critical to ensure that data is acquired and analyzed in a compliant way. Beyond the technology and data considerations, a successful implementation requires organizational understanding, trust and buy-in which requires ongoing measurement and validation of models against real business outcomes.

The roadmap to value lies in the data strategy, the validation, and the cross-functional adoption fueled by consultative collaboration and decision support tools that reflect how marketing plans are truly developed and executed. A unified approach sets strategic marketing budget allocations while allowing financial and marketing planners to be quick and nimble, optimizing campaigns in-market, enabling precise audience targeting, defining impactful sequences and maximizing the value of each media touchpoint. More importantly it grounds the organization on testing agendas to transform their customer strategies, from broad reaching channels to driving mass personalization at scale. Having full picture of upper and lower funnel, customer engagement, and the right timing has directly resulted in millions of dollars in measurable value.

“By collaborating with an organizations’ cross-functional teams and third-party data partners, we unlock the value of siloed data and quantify the business impact of a holistic range of drivers, including marketing, store operations, product detail, pricing, competition and external factors,” said Doug Brooks, Executive Vice President at Ipsos MMA. “In working to establish this Unified Customer Attribution platform we have been able to bring an innovative, objective and transparent solution to the industry that is flexible and independent from third-party technologies,” said Mr. Brooks.

Multi-Touch Attribution


A Unified Customer Attribution capability enables marketers to:

  • Optimize paid media at the channel, message, ad format, device, timing and customer-segment level, balancing broad media with personalization on a weekly basis
  • Target a range of media and operations investments and personalized messages across customers, markets, products, and dayparts to drive increases in revenue and profit
  • Incorporate the long-term impact of marketing and brand effects
  • Understand and respond to the impact of a holistic range of business drivers including: operational factors, external factors and marketing on an ongoing basis

Drivers of a successful Unified Customer Attribution (Next Gen MTA) program

“The ability to measure and optimize the attribution effects of all marketing communications both strategically and tactically in real-time is paramount. Establishing a Unified Customer Attribution capability requires a flexible yet comprehensive data strategy, holistic and transparent analytic framework and cross-functional validation,” said Mr. Francis. “Providing visibility into how all business drivers work together, including both paid media and personalized marketing efforts down to the customer-level is critical for a successful implementation,” said Mr. Francis.

To successfully implement a Unified Customer Attribution model, the organization needs to be able to quantify, measure and track the value it creates over time. By implementing processes designed to drive assimilation, like those below, the probability of success grows significantly.

  • Data strategy – assess the key business questions and align what data is available, what are the data gaps, and how to acquire, connect, and account for data issues through an integrated approach
  • Identity management – build linkages across data and assess the match precision ensuring that the data is projectable and free of any biases across tactics, campaigns, and customer segments
  • Relationships – as “walled gardens” grow higher, continue to establish relationships where data can be included from the source, and work with them toward a privacy safe measurement, ruling out bad actors
  • Holistic integration – advanced mix modeling approaches with granular customer level analytics to ensure a consistent incrementality and ROI assessment, providing both long term and short-term planning recommendations across the organization
  • Ongoing validation – align unified customer attribution with in-market testing experiments to ensure that models are predictable and account for marketplace dynamics. Also use testing as a platform to scale tactics and strategies beyond model confidence ranges
  • Transparency – building a fully transparent data strategy, modeling approach, and activation plan that can be shared cross-functionally and ground teams on recommendations, test plans, and model input