What is the best way to measure paid media success?

In the ever changing, multi-channel digital landscape, measurement of campaigns is a challenge that is increasing for brands and making the question of where to invest marketing budget more and more difficult.

This difficulty is only amplified in awareness and brand campaigns with brands facing the challenge of not being able to link visible and actionable reporting all the way through to the business impact.

The key to measuring the impact of any campaign is to have a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve. From this, you can then explore the technology and products you can use to measure this. Accurate measurement will provide insight into the impact your paid media is having and allow you to track the effectiveness of your campaigns.

Outside of the typical attribution modeling, brands are increasingly asking about the profiles and behaviours of those who are engaging with their campaigns to ensure their spend is having an impact in the desired market segment. This need for greater audience insights and a tangible and intelligent link between brand and direct response  was one of the key drivers behind the development of our audience builder and insights technology, The ATOM.


Using the ATOM, brands and media buyers are able to pinpoint the exact audience profile that is engaging with each content piece and capture these to strengthen the link into direct response campaigns.

The capture of these intelligent audiences allows brands to draw users into their offering not just based on an interest in their brand, but also what particular value or USP they are interested in at first contact. Not only does this enable a personalised approach and add more value to the brand budget, but advertisers are able to gain a detailed audience profile and measure this audience of responders against the audience they set out to reach to better understand the impact of their branding campaign.

The above shows a snapshot overview of the responders to 2 key creative messages from a branding activation.

From understanding your audience at brand level, we will then need to look at how we draw them in and understand the impact of each channel in this process. Let’s walk through the basics of attributing paid media success.

The problem with the ‘last-click’ model of analysis

One of the main challenges in measuring success comes when you’re running sophisticated multi-channel campaigns.

How do you attribute business value to each of those channels and determine which is providing the most value?

The ‘last click’ model of analysis is commonly used to analyse the success of paid media. This looks at converted leads and establishes where the ‘last click’ from a sale came from.

For example, if a customer first clicked on a paid social advert which did not result in a conversion, then went directly to the site, which similarly failed to convert, before finally clicking on a display advert which did result in a conversion, under a ‘last click’ method of analysis the display advert would be 100% attributed to the sale.

But that’s neglecting the influence that the initial paid social ad did have.

The last click approach makes analysis relatively easy, but also gives inaccurate results. This is not helpful when you’re trying to decide where to focus your paid media strategy. The primary reason the ‘last click’ model is inaccurate is because, as we know, consumers are influenced by a whole host of marketing channels.

Large companies can run up to forty different channels simultaneously, which means the majority of converted leads will have been exposed to multiple channels along the way to their purchase (which is what we call the conversion path).

How to attribute converted leads differently

One way to do this is by building conversion paths with Multichannel Grouping using Google Analytics and assign rules to establish your attribution model.

So, if a consumer only had one interaction before conversion, then the last click could rightly be given 100% attribution.

However, if a consumer had multiple interactions and followed a ‘conversion path’, then the first click may receive 50% attribution, assuming the conversion occurs in the next 28 days, whilst further interactions with other marketing channels would receive a lesser attribution percentage.

This way, a more accurate picture of attribution can be painted, allowing for better informed marketing and budgeting decisions.

It might be helpful to think of this in terms of winning a race in a high performance car. There are so many factors that can be attributed the success of coming in first: position, the car mechanics, driver skill, the weather and the latest tyre technology. How much of the success is attributed to each of the different factors at play will vary depending on the circumstances.

Although setting rules is undoubtedly an improvement on the ‘last click’ model, the model is only as good as the rules you set.

Formulating an accurate attribution model

The key to a better attribution model is using a data-driven approach.

By feeding the data we collect (i.e which marketing channels our customer was exposed to) into algorithms, we can actually analyse each conversion path, identify the most effective channels, as well as the relationships between different channels too.

After clicking on a social media ad first, what is the most common method of conversion?

By allowing an algorithm to crunch the numbers, these types of questions can be answered, giving you valuable insights into the inter-connectivity and efficiency of your paid media campaign.

For each individual conversion path an algorithm can attribute accurate values to each marketing channel based upon the wealth of data it has been fed from previous conversion paths.

Clever stuff right?

Working with attribution models means you can identify paid media success with a far greater degree of accuracy than the conventional ‘last click’ model.

We can see how our marketing channels are working for us with these attribution values, and make decisions on budget and resources accordingly.

The result of this? A more effective, and efficient, marketing strategy.

Smart audience insights

Our unique ATOM audience insight technology builds the smartest audience insights, delivering incredibly fast results and improved cost-efficiency.

Get in touch to find out how ATOM can help supercharge your paid media campaigns.

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