Thursday, June 21, 2012
Innovative Attribution Models Shift How Media Is Bought and Sold, Says Proprietary IAB Research

“Digital Attribution Comes Of Age” Shows Marketers Change How They Compensate Publishers Based on Sophisticated, Evolving Attribution Models That Go “Beyond the Click”

IAB Also Releases “The IAB Digital Attribution Primer,” To Clarify the Dynamic Arena

NEW YORK, NY (June 21, 2012) — Advanced techniques for attributing value to digital media channels, based on specific campaign goals and detailed data analysis are replacing simplistic first and last click measures, to become the basis of publisher compensation. Lack of consensus on the “right” new approach, however, is causing confusion in the marketplace. The “Digital Attribution Comes Of Age,” a new commissioned study released today by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), analyzes the drivers of this shift and reveals several trends that are shaping the practice of digital attribution.

In-depth interviews conducted by Forrester Consulting for the “Digital Attribution Comes Of Age” study revealed that the array of digital marketing touch points, formats, and inventory – compounded by a deluge of reporting data and diverse customer journeys – has contributed to the current interest in the attribution process. Trends seen to directly impact the practice moving forward:

  • Marketers will increasingly push to compensate publishers based on attribution models: As media buyers become confident in their attribution models, they will more frequently demand that publishers sign on to this compensation structure – or find themselves on the outside of media deals.
  • Cross-device tracking and measurement will not meaningfully progress without a breakthrough: Fragmentation across channels and devices has been increasing rapidly and demands advancements in tracking marketing performance at the user level.
  • Social media “walled gardens” will open up for attribution – for their own good: With social media providers under pressure to help marketers target users and to prove the value of those capabilities, it is in their best interest to facilitate the transfer of tracking and performance data to and from attribution systems.
  • Channel planning will make way for segment planning: As attribution matures, practitioners will concentrate less on optimizing their campaigns and channel mix against episodic but disconnected conversions. They will instead focus on maximizing lifetime value for customer segments, adjusting their efforts against that objective accordingly.
  • Optimization will become more tightly integrated with media buying and execution: As the industry gets better at attribution and optimization, developing the right checks and balances, many elements of a media plan will likely be executed in a much more automated and efficient way.

“Marketers and advertisers are increasingly challenged by the limitations of the last click attribution model,” said Patrick Dolan, Executive Vice-President and COO, IAB. “In today’s rapidly maturing interactive marketplace, the practice of digital attribution has reached an inflection point, and the industry needs to understand the significant changes that are impacting their businesses. Research like this will help us break through the clutter and provide clarity for the buyers and sellers of interactive media.”

A related Forrester survey of interactive marketers* featured in “Digital Attribution Comes Of Age” took a snapshot of the landscape and finds that 34 percent of respondents currently use a rules-based approach, followed by 30 percent relying on a first or last click method. In addition, 11 percent said that they use algorithmic attribution models. Adding another layer of fragmentation to the attribution process, the survey also revealed that although a range of partners and providers offer attribution services, more than half of companies assign credit to interactive marketing channels, contacts or partners themselves rather than outsourcing that role.

For the “Digital Attribution Comes Of Age,” Forrester Consulting interviewed 15 agencies, service providers, and publishers based in the U.S. to evaluate the state of digital attribution. Participants included individuals in analytical, planning, or revenue supporting roles. The study, commissioned by the IAB in conjunction with AdSafe Media, AT&T AdWorks, ClearSaleing, Quantcast, and SAS, was unveiled on stage at the IAB Advertising Technology Marketplace “Beyond Acronyms and Algorithms…Defining Value in the Marketplace” in New York City.

To clarify the dynamic attribution arena further, IAB also released “The IAB Digital Attribution Primer,” providing an overview of the practice that explains the prevalent attribution models in play, and the distinction between attribution and traditional media mix modeling.

To view a full copy of “Digital Attribution Comes Of Age,” please visit In addition, “The IAB Digital Attribution Primer” is available for download here

*Forrester fielded its Q2 2012 Interactive Marketing Executive Survey to 267 interactive marketing executives. This report illustrates only a portion of the results — those related to attribution. The respondents are volunteers who join on the basis of interest and familiarity with specific marketing and strategy topics. For quality assurance, respondents are required to provide contact information and answer basic questions about their firms' revenues and budgets. Forrester fielded the survey from May to June 2012. As incentive to participate, respondents were offered access to a summary of the survey results. Exact sample sizes are provided in this report on a question-by-question basis. Unless otherwise noted, statistical data is intended to be used for descriptive and not inferential purposes.

About the IAB
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is comprised of more than 500 leading media and technology companies that are responsible for selling 86% of online advertising in the United States. On behalf of its members, the IAB is dedicated to the growth of the interactive advertising marketplace, of interactive’s share of total marketing spend, and of its members’ share of total marketing spend. The IAB educates marketers, agencies, media companies and the wider business community about the value of interactive advertising. Working with its member companies, the IAB evaluates and recommends standards and practices and fields critical research on interactive advertising. Founded in 1996, the IAB is headquartered in New York City with a Public Policy office in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit

IAB Media Contact
Laura Goldberg
[email protected]