Thursday, April 11, 2013

Adometry Combines Attribution with Optimization

So…my last two posts on attribution systems (MMA and VisualIQ ) were among the least popular ever, right down there with Marketing Lessons from Chernobyl (which, let’s face it, was in pretty poor taste). But vox populi isn’t always vox Dei, eh? I think it’s an important topic, so here we go again.

The lucky recipient of that less-than-stirring introduction is Adometry, which in no way deserves any disrespect. From humble beginnings in click fraud prevention, they have grown in recent years to be one of the leaders in algorithmic response attribution. Their latest expansion moves them beyond digital channels to offline media including direct mail, television, and print. They have also moved from attributing past results to using predictive models to optimize current and future campaigns. Impressive.

The core of Adometry’s attribution methodology is to compile the sequence of marketing messages seen by each individual, and then compare results of individuals whose sequence differs by only one message. Any difference in results is then attributed to that message. This is conceptually simple, but requires clever treatments to handle low volumes for specific sequences and to isolate the impact of attributes such as placement, time slot, creative, and list segment. Adometry also lets users model against multiple events in the customer life cycle, such as sign-ups, first purchase, and repeat purchase. It calls these all conversions, which I personally found a bit confusing but suppose would quickly get used to.

The system also classifies each conversion as attributable, multi-touch, and multi-channel, depending on whether it was linked to at least one message (attributable), to multiple messages (multi-touch) and to messages in multiple channels (multi-channel). For each category, it shows the conversion count and revenue: so, for example, you see the number and revenue for multi-touch repeat purchases. That’s a lot of information to digest, but does give a great deal of insight into the effect of different promotions and channels on different parts of the business. This encourages marketers to look beyond any single measure, such as cost per order, that tells only a small part of the business story.

The system’s optimization process begins with the attribution analysis, but then adds auto-generated predictive models to estimate the impact of future ad plans, including interactions across channels. Users can enter scenarios with budgets for multiple channels and campaigns, and then apply other constraints such as limits on the change in spending per channel. They also define output measures for the system to optimize against: like other optimization systems, Adometry can only optimize against a single measure, but this can be a composite of several items. For each scenario, the system will determine the optimal budget allocation and show the expected results across each output measure. Users can modify the recommended plan and have the system re-forecast the results. The final plan can be output to a spreadsheet for further editing. Adometry can also be connected directly to ad buying platforms, including systems for real time bidding on individual impressions.   The company says optimization typically yields a 20% to 40% improvement in ad-to-sales ratios.

The database of marketing messages per individual can be used for other types of analysis. These include reach and frequency reports, which show the number of individuals reached in total, reached in each channel, and reached exclusively for each channel. The reports count impressions as well as individuals; show how many people were reached in each combination of channels; show the number of people with each number of impressions (one, two, three, etc.); and show the current member count in each funnel stage.

Adometry’s data comes primarily from tags embedded in advertisements, emails, and other online messages, which drop cookies to identify who sees which message. The system can also draw data from Web server logs or third party tags. Adometry can further enrich its database by appending external information about individuals, using both online and offline sources. This lets it profile the audiences associated with different events, channels, campaigns, and other attributes. Optimization models can use data that can’t be tied to specific individuals, such as weather, economic conditions,  and mass media like television and print. The system can also verify which ads were actually seen by individuals, providing more precise inputs to the attribution calculations.

Pricing for Adometry is based on the number of channels and volume of data. It starts around $100,000 per year for the smallest clients with enough volume to use the system effectively (about 30 to 50 million impressions per month). Currently, more than 50 companies use Adometry’s attribution services.

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