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Is Multi-Touch Attribution Dead?

Is Multi-Touch Attribution dead? This is a question I often get asked as a marketing analytics professional. Mostly the question is posed by clients wanting to know the next silver bullet or the next investment they should be making in understanding how they track those returns from advertising. Performance Marketing has relied on one number to track success of campaigns to measure and optimise their sales. The market is craving a simple, singular answer to continue doing performance campaigns. However, the answer may not be something they want to hear; there is no silver bullet or one solution to measuring success. 

The Pursuit of Optimisation 

Multi-Touch Attribution (MTA) measures marketing effectiveness measurement by considering all the touchpoints on a customer’s journey and assigning conversion credits to each so that a marketer can see how much influence each channel has on a sale. Last Click or Touch – a customer’s final interaction with a website - is considered one part of MTA.  

Some of our clients have spent time building models to move away from this metric, while others have adopted models from Google or Meta. Most, we have found, are looking for that sweet spot that identifies what is happening in the consumer journey and can therefore pull those levers towards optimisation. But one thing is getting in the way: the cookie apocalypse; many of these models in use were built on the assumption that cookies continue in perpetuity. 

Some marketers and partners are now seeking updated solutions for robust and consistent tagging, more accurate conversion attribution, and signal enrichment to effectively capture data at source. In addition, many players, like Google and Meta, have introduced Machine Learning to create Behaviour Modelling to allow marketers to measure conversions. These are just some of the developments becoming available that are eclipsing the traditional MTA measurement metric most marketers have come to rely on. 

A Hybrid Measurement Model  

At Merkle and dentsu, we are seeing an increased demand for measurement and technology practitioners to work together to build elegant solutions such as lifetime value bidding and data-driven attribution. Consequently, establishing a bespoke measurement framework for your brand has never been more critical. In most cases, this requires multiple measurement techniques to validate and calibrate each other. According to the A Cookieless World – A Guide for the New Era of Digital Marketing report by dentsu , the holy grail of these is the Hybrid Measurement Model, where data-driven attribution, marketing mix modelling, and incrementality testing work together via triangulation to produce a performance measurement model.  

hybrid measurement model

This Hybrid Measurement Model allows for tremendous success in measuring performance but also allows for the adaption of new solutions like Google Ads Data Hub or Amazon Marketing Cloud to create advanced analysis or for the use of tools like the new Google Analytics 4 (a practical and privacy compliant, cookie less measurement).  

A Holistic Approach 

One of the critical shifts in the marketing analytics world is moving away from a one-and-done solution towards the idea that we need to test and learn to understand what worked and what did not. Then, through incremental testing, we can see if the optimisations can be made based on data-driven attribution and market mix modelling to deliver improved outcomes.  

The other critical shift is the idea of patience or waiting for the result rather than making decisions based on real-time analytics. At the same time, there will be some room for fast-moving decisions and optimisation. Marketers and analysts will now need to wait to understand how things have performed and if it worked thoroughly. 

Ultimately, in an era of significant change that is rapidly evolving, there are a multitude of solutions available to help deliver insights to optimise and measure your marketing efforts, and an open mind is needed to explore which mix is right for your business. That’s not to say that there won’t be a silver bullet one day, but it is starting to look unlikely.  


*Thomas Galluzzo is the Google Marketing Platform (GMP) and Digital Analytics Lead at Merkle Australia.