For the past few years, an endless stream of policy updates from tech giants like Apple and Google have held DTC marketers in an advertising undertow. Just as they gain a semblance of stability, having adapted their strategies to the latest requirements, another headline hits and pulls them back into a sea of chaos.
At Measured, we are committed to providing brands with ongoing insights that can always be trusted. Our experts are continuously analyzing the potential impact of inevitable industry changes on the ability of advertisers to measure the performance of their ad campaigns.
Based on data from across our portfolio of DTC brands, running thousands of media incrementality experiments on multiple channels, there is only one viable option to escape the breaking waves for good. Marketers need a reliable system of measurement, based on their own source of truth transaction data, that is independent of platform bias and not susceptible to damage from rapidly degrading identity resolution and user tracking capabilities.
We’ve come full circle: why are we talking about last-click again?
If we’re being honest (and that’s just who we are), relying solely on attribution and conversion lift reports delivered by the platforms you are paying for advertising was never a comfortable approach for anyone. It’s understandable to be concerned that platforms reporting on their own performance might inflate their results. By relying on last-click attribution, platforms have lived up to that skepticism. When every platform claims 100% of the credit for every conversion it was in the path of, the numbers will not add up.
Multi-touch attribution (MTA) promised to reconcile conflicting last-click performance reports with user click-paths, built by following individuals around the internet and assigning a percentage of credit for each touchpoint on the way to a conversion. It sounded like a data-driven utopia for marketers, but ended up being complex, cumbersome, expensive, and really not all that effective.
We’ve been shouting about this at Measured for years; With more and more governments, companies, and platforms putting the kibosh on user-level tracking, MTA is dead.
Marketers are now challenged with reverting back to platform reporting, unifying the data they can collect from all available disparate sources, and extrapolating actionable insights. But who should they trust when sales transactions, site-side analytics, and the platforms themselves inevitably report wildly different results?
Platform reporting will lead you down a dangerous path
The same issues that moved us away from last-click attribution in the first place still exist, but today’s environment is even more precarious for platforms trying to prove their worth to data-hungry advertisers. Apple’s new privacy policies, Google’s decision to eventually kill browser cookies, and all the privacy dominoes falling in the wake of these titans are slashing visibility for walled gardens like Facebook and causing a breakdown in their ability to provide usable attribution and lift reports to advertisers.
Facebook recently indicated that the platform’s ad measurement and reporting systems are suffering accuracy issues related to Apple’s iOS updates. Facebook believes that “real-world conversions, like sales and app installs, are higher than what is being reported for many advertisers.”
The incrementality experiments we’ve been running prove that Facebook’s theory is correct. While Facebook’s attribution reporting has gone down significantly since the rollout of iOS 14.5, by reconciling experiment results with source-of-truth transaction data from the brand, Measured has revealed that the incremental contribution of their Facebook campaigns has remained consistent.
Performance isn’t suffering. Reporting is.
This is not an isolated incident
While Apple was the most recent to implement (and enforce) new policies and Facebook, as the second-largest online advertising platform in the world, has received the most attention about collateral damage for advertisers, this is the new reality for all advertisers – on all platforms.
As an example, we just reviewed the results of OTT incrementality experiments for a large fashion brand advertising on the Roku platform. The results indicated that Roku was significantly underreporting the performance of their ads and the value they contributed to the brand’s business. If the brand had relied on the reports from Roku alone, they may have made decisions about very large advertising investments based on false information.
The variety and pace of change happening in this space are having some level of impact on measurement and reporting for every advertising platform that exists. There is no future where data privacy policies become less restricted. Marketers need to prepare now.
To avoid the repercussions of wasting money and failing to meet KPIs, marketers need an independent system of measurement, tied to their own business transaction data (which the platforms do not have) to rescue them from the undertow and guide them towards smart investment decisions.