Multi-Touch Attribution (MTA) Saves This Marketer Millions In Wasted Spend

Multi-Touch Attribution (MTA) focuses on media optimization, and on average, companies report 15%+ increase in advertising ROI and a 6X return on their attribution investment.

This client’s numbers are much greater than 15%!

The nature of this marketer’s product is such that it is a need based product service which only arises every 7 years.

In order for the marketing team to shift demand from solely need to want, they know it would require a shift away from their brand’s heavy dependence on paid search into other forms of advertising including display, pre-roll video and content creation.

But how do you make such a major shift in advertising strategy?

You’ve got to have the proof and that’s where Multi-Touch Attribution (MTA) helps marketers win everyday!

After onboarding C3 Metrics, including adding C3 Metrics tags to their tag manager and establishing feeds into the Attribution Data Cloud, the C3 Metrics team completed their QA process on the data inputs and the model outputs. (Most clients complete this process within 90 days.)

Upon initial evaluation, the C3 Metrics analytics team noticed significant spend yielding zero return.

To be more precise, they were able to determine that 91% of this company’s advertising spend was not generating any return.

When 91% of your ads are not receiving any ROI, you have to make cuts.

Needless to say, our analytics team recommended some intense cuts.

Review the data below and see how C3 Metrics was able to save this company millions of dollars in wasted ad spend and create an ‘instant’ budget for display and other upper funnel tactics!



And this is just the beginning for this client.

By using C3 Metrics, you have the ability to see which tactics, creatives, messaging and vendors are not generating what you thought they were.

Still think your outdated analytics is working for you?

Think again.

Multi-Touch Attribution (MTA) Can Start a CMO / CFO Love Affair

Sometimes a relationship between CMO and CFO generates tension.

When sales rise, the CMO / CFO relationship works. When sales slow, however, more meetings and calls happen.


  • We need to cut budget
  • We need to understand which advertising expenditures drive revenue and which don’t

Both questions trigger a faster heartbeat.

But the question which collapses a relationship between CMO and CFO, is the latter: revenue accountability.

That revenue accountability question…is why ad dollars shift away from offline advertising (TV, Print, etc) to the Internet. The Internet is the most accountable advertising format in our lifetime.

But despite the $30 billion/year spent in U.S. online advertising, revenue accountability systems are outdated, and unfortunately, wrong.

Thus…lingering questions from CFO to CMO linger.

And the honeymoon wanes.

But for CMO’s deploying Enterprise MTA, a CMO / CFO love affair has started.

How is this happening?

First, the Breakup…

Sadly, most of today’s Internet measurement systems give 100% transaction credit to the very last clicked or last viewed ad before an online transaction.

So if four Internet ads contribute to a transaction, today’s outdated systems allocate entire credit to the fourth, last ad–ignoring the first three, which actually drove the revenue.

Blame our decade-old ad tracking systems possessing zero media attribution capability.

Now, the Love Affair…

Enter full funnel media attribution systems.

Robust media attribution systems like C3 Metrics recognize that credit should be assigned to a team of Internet ads versus just the last one.

At a basic level, C3 assigns credit to every touchpoint based upon a machine-learning statistically based model.

All media sources are captured from the top of the funnel where sales are originated, all the way to the very bottom of the funnel. So for a $100 transaction, each touchpoint would get a fraction of that $100 attributed to them.

But just like a CFO who knows where every penny is…100% of the revenue is attributed —accounting for the actual drivers of revenue. This is then matched to the cost of those media sources, producing a single, easy-to-use metric which accounts for every penny.

After deploying media attribution, things change in a CMO / CFO relationship. All along, both yearned for: transparency, knowledge down to the penny, and revenue accountability.

Order more chocolates–the love affairs are starting!

How Important Is Time To Financial Impact For Marketers?

Back in the day …I remember testing 104 different banners on a Yahoo home page media buy.

The data was robust, and we had CTR answers on all 104 iterations within 24 hours.

Lightning fast decisions can be intoxicating.

But that was then, and perhaps we’ve all had too much to drink in the past ten plus years online—especially since most advertisers still attribute 100% credit to the last touched ad, versus attributing credit to a team of ads with MTA powered by machine learning.

But once you’ve woken up, and the intoxication wears off…we discovered that some lightning speed decision-making got us in trouble.


“Time to financial impact.”

After seeing data from a variety of clients over the years, one of the things we learned is that ‘time to financial impact’ is a lot longer than anyone ever imagined.

If you once believed your average ‘time to convert’ was X days, we’ve seen this misjudged belief turn out to be up to 5X that.

But so what?

Actually, it’s SO critical to your media optimization.

Increasingly so.

For example, the SEM manager used to optimize every week.

No big deal you think—we were working at a regular fast pace.

But what we discovered using C3 Metrics MTA, is that keywords that started (Originated) a conversion took a median of seven days to convert!

So when the SEM manager optimized each week, the data was only half-gestated at best.

Speed was the name of the game…and it was like making beer.

Volume, as fast as you could go.

But once we discovered the actual gestation period from origination to conversion in non-brand search was longer, we started operating more like a wine maker and less like a beer maker.

We had to allow our work to gestate, to age, in order to optimize with full knowledge.

And along the way, we discovered that different channels had different median gestation periods.

In some channels, even different media partners showed different median days to convert.

So how do we use this data?

Time is money on Wall Street.

For media partners with short days to convert, we devised a plan specifically when the Advertiser had more cash to spend at the end of the month or quarter.

And for media partners with 2-3X longer gestation periods, we learned to become patient—not killing the campaign before it had fully gestated.

So with Enterprise MTA and the new knowledge C3 Metrics provided, some of the advertising intoxication wore off…and we learned how to act more like a wine maker, and less like a beer maker.


Why Is Multi-Touch Attribution (MTA) Better Than Last Touch?

Imagine the adrenaline pump that astronaut Neil Armstrong and his crew must have felt, preparing to hurdle through space with the intention of landing on the moon.

And, imagine having to entrust your very life to the veracity of the extensive research done to prepare for such a historic journey.

Research is creating new knowledge.
– Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11 Astronaut

In the world of advertising, we too, stand on a virtual precipice, waiting to launch into a new galaxy of possibilities, because of progress made in perfecting a robust multi-touch attribution (MTA) model.

And we too are entirely dependant on the accuracy of research to make all the decisions necessary before the official launch of any marketing mission.

Mr. Armstrong knew a thing or two about preparing for the next frontier.

His quote, “Research is creating new knowledge” can definitely be applied to advertising.

Lift-off (in our marketing world) can only occur after a sequence of successful advertising & consumer interactions.

It’s researching the particulars of those interactions, components, and costs that make an advertising campaign successful.

But research is only as good as the data at hand.

What if all the communication and navigation/tracking systems between Cape Kennedy and Apollo 11, went dark for the majority of its mission?

The spaceship and the lives of astronauts would undeniably be lost.

Fortunately, in advertising, lives aren’t at stake…but dollars, jobs, and livelihoods certainly are.

And if mission critical data in advertising went dark for a majority of your next marketing campaign–there is no doubt that you could be lost.

Houston, we have a problem: because that blackout is exactly what’s happening.

The inherent problem is this: if four ads contribute to a transaction; today’s outdated systems allocate 100% of the credit to the very last ad, completely ignoring the first three ads which actually drove the revenue.

No data for a majority of the mission.

Today, outdated ad tracking systems erroneously give 100% credit to the very last clicked or last viewed ad before a transaction.

Zero credit to revenue drivers, and 100% credit to the last ad placed.


For an advertising industry spending $500 billion worldwide each year–this isn’t just any problem, it’s a $100 billion problem.

Now enter a robust multi-touch attribution (MTA) model.

Attribution modeling done right with machine learning takes an enormous amount of data, and reduces complexity into simplicity.

At a basic level, C3 assigns credit to Originators, Rosters, Assists, and Converters within a conversion.

An attribution model should capture every media source from the top of the funnel where sales originate…down to the very bottom of the funnel.

So in a $100 transaction, an Originator would receive a fraction of $100 attributed to them—and the Roster, Assist and Converter would also receive fractional credit of the $100 attributed respectively.

100% of revenue credit is attributed and split among Originators, Rosters, Assists, and Converters–accounting for the actual drivers of revenue.

Then revenue and respective costs from paid media sources converge in a single, elegant number in the attribution model: Attributed Value-to-Spend Ratio (AVSR®).

It’s a simple ratio any marketer can grasp: attributed value divided by corresponding spend.

If you have a 4.0 ratio for a specific keyword, or specific Display campaign–you’re getting $4.00 in revenue for every dollar spent on that particular media source.

Conversely, if you have an AVSR of 1.25 for a particular media buy—you’re getting $1.25 in revenue for every dollar spent there.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist.

For brands that don’t transact dollars on their site, they can simply assign a revenue value for: a dealer zip code lookup, building a vehicle online, or scheduling an appointment online.

AVSR delivers knowledge ready to act on, versus information barely ready for analysis.

The special sauce of the MTA model is the numerator of the ratio (attributed value).

Media buyers easily identify media sources with high numbers to scale, and low numbers to cut or improve.

Instead of taking weeks of analysis, it’s about an hour.

But does this new knowledge just keep your job, or get you promoted to new levels?

The results are electrifying:

On average, companies using C3 Metrics report 15%+ increase in advertising ROI.

Bottom line: companies are seeing a 6X return on their attribution investment.

One small step for man….one giant leap online.

We have lift-off.

Marketing Attribution – Have We Discovered John Wanamaker’s Missing Half?

John Wanamaker had it right, and wrong.

He’s perhaps most famous for saying he knew that half his advertising dollars worked…he just didn’t know which half.

He was right to ask the question because even advertising accountability today gets a lot of blank stares—and in today’s earnings environment we need much more.

But Wanamaker was wrong in searching for singular linear accountability (e.g. one ad = xx purchases).

I was fortunate many years ago to have a marketing executive from Kraft Foods speak to our Business School—Kraft was known as one of the most analytical of all marketers at the time.

I heard something I’ve never forgotten.

After many quantitative analyses, Kraft discovered there was no singular linear accountability in marketing. Meaning, they could never correlate one ad, or one channel of advertising to sales.

Jaws dropped…you could hear a pin drop.

The executive continued.

Although no singular silver bullet existed—what did exist was the following:

The sum of campaigns together…a team of ads…produced a correlation to revenue.

Fast forward to today.

We’re living in a world where every type of advertising, from digital to TV to OTT, is becoming fully addressable.

Chock full of data.

But perhaps more backward than the days of John Wanamaker because of today’s still prevalent, yet outdated, measurement using ‘last touch attribution.’

Last touch attribution flies in the face of marketers who know that multiple ads and multiple visits contribute to every conversion.

Sadly, most of today’s measurement systems (& marketers) give 100% transaction credit to the last clicked ad, or last viewed ad–before the conversion.

So if four ads contribute to a conversion, most measurement systems will allocate 100% of the credit to the fourth, last ad–ignoring the first three which actually drove the conversion.

But John Wanamaker, it’s OK—don’t turn over in your grave just yet.

Enter full funnel multi-touch attribution (MTA).

Multi-Touch Attribution is the identification of a set of user actions that contribute to a desired outcome and then the assignment of a value to each of those events.

MTA means: splitting and attributing revenue and transaction credit…one transaction at a time for an advertiser.

At C3 Metrics, all media sources are captured from the top of the funnel to the very bottom of the funnel in every conversion, and via machine learning credit is attributed correctly between what we call Originators, Rosters, Assists, and Converters.

And then, most importantly for Mr. Wanamaker, after credit is attributed to Originators, Assists, Rosters and Converters in a transaction—the respective cost or advertising spend is matched.

This yields a metric Mr. Wanamaker would love—Attributed Value to Spend Ratio (AVSR), where the successful portion of attributed revenue is attributed to an ad, and then divided by its respective cost.

A single metric, an even playing field, where 100% of revenue is accounted for, and every penny of ad cost is accounted for.

No last touch to usurp 100% of credit while every other revenue-driving source is ignored.

This single metric is used to reallocate more online ad dollars to media that actually works, and cut or curb ad dollars against media that doesn’t work.

Mr. Wanamaker, although full funnel media attribution is new, it’s finally here.

Rest in peace.

Who (Really) Wins and Loses With Multi-Touch Attribution (MTA)?

We’ve often been asked this question, because when you move from a world where the last touch has received 100% of conversion credit, to multi-touch attribution (MTA), somebody’s got to lose, right?

The answer is: MTA actually creates more winners than losers.

Let’s look at the four major stakeholders: Advertiser/Agency, Networks, Search, and Affiliate.

1. Advertiser/Agency – Winner
Why, because MTA captures the top of the conversion funnel, seeing what planted the seeds for revenue.

Without insight into TV, display, video, upper funnel keywords, and other granular paid media sources–you will inevitably plateau your revenue growth.

With MTA, cutting under-performers and scaling real performers creates exponential impact…and can make you a hero at your company.

2. Advertising Network – Winner
Most Ad Networks will become winners, if they are being measured by an MTA system capturing all addressable and non-addressable media.

Ad Networks strive for a win-win and an ongoing relationship with both Advertiser and Agencies, but due to the outdated ‘last touch’ world, Ad Networks are finding decreased budgets because their ad inventory (whether digital or traditional) does not appear to be working.

With real-time attribution for view-through impressions (with C3 Metrics MTA), Advertisers and Networks quickly realize that what ‘appeared’ to not be working previously, was actually filling up the top part of the funnel with new customers — and can scale this.

Some Networks, however, may lose out in the new world of attribution…but only if they don’t react, utilize the data, and improve efficiency on their end as well as the Advertiser’s end.

MTA can not solve failure to work hard for a client—and perhaps exposes this if taking place.

3. Paid Search – Winner
Google definitely wins in the world of MTA.

Primarily for two major reasons:

  1. Longer MTA look-back windows with Enterprise MTA; and
  2. Previously rejected upper funnel keywords with a higher cost-per-click

Currently, the world’s most popular (free) analytics program used by large and small sites alike is Google Analytics.

It’s great because of many reasons, but when it comes to tracking whether generic (non-brand) search term like “401k” later drove an account being opened more than 90 days later—these analytic programs which only track for 30 days fall short…their tracking simply expires in 30 days.

Quite often we hear clients say their the average “time to convert” is 12 days, or bi-modal…28 days and three days.

But after deploying C3 Metrics, which allows insight into tracking for greater than two years…the average time to convert turns out to be much longer in every respect.

So just by the very fact that solutions like C3 Metrics sit alongside current tracking programs, the search channel and their keywords now get more credit simply because the funnel often has a lifetime greater than 30 days.

Search also wins with MTA by capturing what’s really driving revenue from the top, through the middle, and down to the bottom of the purchase funnel.

It’s been said that attribution is biased against search, because a significant amount of transactions end with a brand term being the last click.

Yes and no.

Brand terms are often at the bottom of the sales funnel after the consumer researches reviews, opinions, and price.

But a smart Advertiser will never cease bidding on its own brand term—and allow its competitor to show up in the first sponsored link up on search. Hardly.

But for the first time, MTA reduces risk on much higher-priced generic terms.

An advertiser might find that generic terms like “401k” or “Savings Account” once had hugely expensive cost per conversion in the last-click world, and stopped spending on those higher cost terms.

But now with MTA insight, they can revisit these terms to discover if they are getting attribution credit resulting in conversions, now revealing the true ROI.

With MTA, Advertisers win with previously missed upper funnel revenue drivers, and the search providers win also by gaining or regaining previously rejected higher cost-per-click terms.

4. Affiliates – Still Winners
Affiliates and their tracking systems were created 20+ years ago, and haven’t changed their credit systems much from the last click.

You would think they would be losers in this new world of MTA, but not so.

Affiliates are often one of the most cost-efficient channels online (and hard to build up over time).

Yes, there is inefficiency, but after running Enterprise MTA programs like C3 Metrics side-by-side with existing tracking programs, the Affiliate channel still performs well from an ROI standpoint.

So the choice becomes one of real world rubber meeting the road.

If you tell your affiliate provider they will all of a sudden make 30-50% less money, but still have to put forth the same effort…they will likely abandon you, and hop over to your competitor.

The choice becomes keeping efficient transactions (perhaps not as efficient as it should be) or losing all those transactions—completely.

Most of our clients see the difference.

They attribute Affiliates, so all components are tracked and add up to 100% of the funnel…but continue to pay current Affiliates the same way they have always paid them.

So current Affiliates still win, but new affiliates might go into a different compensation/tracking system for the future.

The Real Winner

The real winners are first and foremost, the Brand.

In today’s world of increasing pressure to make earnings, and drive more revenue with less cost—proper MTA technology can turn you into a hero at your company in a matter of months.

3 Keys To Operationalize Attribution (or Anything)

Attribution works (it’s the math), but building consensus and operationalizing marketing attribution requires three incredibly important keys which need to be followed.

Matt DiAntonio shared at the C3 SUMMIT how he led his organization thru the shift from ‘last click’ to fully operationalizing attribution by adopting this strategy.

(In fact …. these 3 keys could be used for moving forward almost any agenda within any organization.)
If you want to be seen, noticed, make a real impact and move up in your org …. you don’t need Tony Robbins, just keep reading and watch Matt’s talk.

1) Adopt an executive strategy. Take ownership of the conversation and be concise.

What does that mean?

I’ve sat in enough board meetings and I can help you all through this.

Don’t come to the table with a ream of paper.

If I had a nickel for every time I saw the marketing team show up with every click-through and, stop.

Just stop.

2) What’s working? What’s not? What are we doing about it?

There’s three questions that you should answer at every one of these meetings. One is more important than the other.

What’s working? What’s not? Don’t run away from what’s not.

Executives and leaders, they don’t want cheer leaders. They don’t want doom sayers, your job isn’t to nit pick every possible thing that sucks.

Your job is to say what’s working, what’s not and what are we doing about it?

That last point is the absolute most important piece.

When you start talking about what you’re doing about it and you keep an active log of it and say, “Listen, we had this conversation. As a team we’re driving change in the organization. Is it going to work? I don’t know, but we’re doing something that shows that we have ownership and accountability in this company.”

All of a sudden what you’re going to see is the entire C-Suite start showing up at these meetings.

We saw it.

3) Make other people successful … but don’t lose the paper trail of who you’re empowering and how its changing the company.

Literally, we have a Thursday meeting and our entire C-Suite sits in the back of the room because they want to hear what’s going to happen next.

They want to see who’s playing ball and who’s owning it and that’s the most important part. If you leave this out, the value that you’re bringing to the organization starts to go.

I hear a lot a lot of people say “we have this awesome system there’s all sorts of good stuff coming in here but we don’t see any change happening.”

When was the last time you actually helped someone else own some of the chains so they look good.
If I’m the one to ring the bell, other people are going to say, “f*ck you, I’m here to do a good job.”

Make the other people in your company successful, but don’t lose the paper trail and what we’re doing about the paper trail, who you’re empowering, and how it’s changing the company.

What Are The Five Causes of 75% of Advertising Fraud?

According to Mark Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer at Procter & Gamble, fraud constitutes 75 cents of every digital marketing dollar.

1. Viewability Fraud
Now many of you work with viewability vendors in order to get ‘make goods’ on the buys that you do, but you’re not aware of the impact that viewability fraud has on your your KPIs and your measurement: because 95 percent of attribution data that’s modeled are impressions, and if 54 percent of the ads are not viewable, and attribution does not track viewability…greater than half the time your attribution results will be wrong.

So when your model tells you that you should actually spend more with one vendor, the truth is you should actually be cutting them.

2. Daypart Fraud
One of the biggest frauds is daypart fraud. In the world of television, we’re all aware of the differences in the different dayparts. Programmatic advertising starts their day at midnight, which means you end up seeing these peaks and valleys.

For most of our clients using the attribution data cloud, we see 80 to 90 percent of their digital impressions are blown out in the middle of the night (at the start of the programmatic day) around two to three o’clock in the morning.

3. Brand Search Fraud
Another type of fraud is brand search fraud this is where 90% of your digital conversions end in a brand search term, which is strictly navigational. We all agree as marketers that brand search is not causal revenue…it’s simply navigational.

Of course the problem is that our metrics and our measurement lead us to believe it is, and leads finance to believe spending money on brand search leads to revenue.

It’s actually not the case at all. We tend to call this the Google tax you have to pay in order to be there, but it has nothing to do with revenue. It’s simply navigational.

4. Affiliate Fraud
There’s also affiliate fraud. This is one of the most common attacks on ecommerce marketers. Someone navigates to the site through brand search, and in the last minute, the affiliate jumps in and claims credit.

5. Botnet Fraud
Last but not least is botnet fraud. For any partner who’s willing to show up in last place, botnets are rampant across the web.

The advantage of the C3 Metrics attribution data cloud is:
Fraud Free User Journey Data

  • Viewability Fraud: detection and removal at the device and impression level
  • Brand Search Fraud: detection and optional removal of brand search fraud
  • Affiliate Fraud: detection and optional removal when appearing at last action
  • Botnet Fraud: detection and removal of botnet fraud
  • Daypart Fraud: detection at partner & source level to weed out fraudulent players

How Do You Increase ROI?

The #1 Question we get all of the time is …

“How do we increase our ROI (Return on Investment)?”

The key to increasing ROI is using data to help make better and faster decisions.

Of course we all know that data can be:

  • Confusing
  • Overwhelming
  • Crazy
  • ‘Rip my hair out’

But it doesn’t have to be that way!

Our CEO Mark Hughes wrote a great article in Retail TouchPoints which shows how modern multi-touch attribution is both ‘approachable’ and can help you make better decisions.

For example: Compare “Creative D” to “Creative F” in the above chart.

Simple to see: “Creative D” performed 26 times better!

That was both fast & simple!

If “Creative F” was the preferred TV advertisement of the management team, this would show performance doesn’t justify the spend.

The company can shift dollars to “Creative D” for more profitable TV / radio / digital and rotate out less successful creative.

This is data measurement on a simple — yet digestible — scale.

And with multi-touch attribution, it’s really that simple and fast to increase your ROI.

Google ADH Certification for C3 Metrics

C3 Metrics initially became the only measurement company to achieve “Google compliance” — the ability to work with Google when the EU’s GDPR went into enforcement at the end of May.

It required C3 to change its modeling processes and query data directly along with other changes. It took nine months to complete the initial tasks, but the changes are ongoing.

Google made significant changes in the data it would make available to advertisers in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The restrictions were placed on media buyers using its data transfer service and DoubleClick ID, mainly on YouTube.

C3 Metrics, which turns 10 years old on Saturday, was the first attribution company to become Google certified. Jeff Greenfield, chief executive officer at C3 Metrics, discovered last summer that the C3 tracking tags Google approved to run on YouTube were being phased out due to GDPR — not just C3’s tags, but all companies, globally.

“Google wants us to be able to do our job, but we need to do it without running tags,” he said. “Every week we have a standing call with them that our CTO joins, along with our chief developer.”
C3’s budget to comply with Google’s certification sits at close to $2 million, Greenfield admits — basically because it’s an ongoing project. “You can see some of the grumblings from the agencies and holding companies, because I think people just didn’t believe it would happen, which shocks me,” he said.

A white paper published recently by Sequent Partners highlights the changes Google made ranging from the inability to track digital purchases, view scheduled reach and frequencies, and frequency capping, to making it more difficult to do schedule optimization, according to Alice Sylvester, partner at Sequent Partners, a consulting agency. “The walled garden got a little thicker,” she said, referring to data and some companies even view the changes as a threat to their business model.

Sylvester says “the threat” produced few options. For marketers, continuing to do business with Google either means becoming “Google certified” or allowing Google to do all the attribution work.
Attribution companies felt like the light went out, added Jim Speath, partner at Sequent Partners.
Consumers want companies to do more to protect their data. Findings from a study focused on data privacy, published Thursday, revealed that nearly 60% of the 2,000 consumers surveyed believe the U.S. government should regulate how companies use their data.

The study, released Thursday from marketing company Sailthru, also found that about the same don’t believe companies should sell their personal data. Breaking down the more conservative states from more liberal states, consumers in New York are more comfortable with the notion than Texans, but consumers in both states generally don’t trust brands not to sell or share their data.

Read original article on Mediapost by @lauriesullivan