Salt and pepper. Eggs and bacon. Fish and chips. As great pairings go, marketing attribution and programmatic buying might not be an obvious contender. At first glance, they appear to work independently of one another, performing completely different functions. While marketing attribution is all about accurately measuring and optimising cross-channel marketing performance, programmatic automates the execution of media buying. On closer inspection however, it becomes clear that these two processes are the ultimate duo, with marketing attribution an essential ingredient in getting the best from programmatic.

So, how are attribution and programmatic interconnected and why should brands incorporate advanced measurement into their programmatic strategies to boost performance this year?

Advanced marketing measurement banishes data silos

Something programmatic media buying and marketing attribution have in common is their dependence on good quality data. With a healthy supply of quality data from multiple sources, marketers can ensure they reach the right audiences, with the right messaging, via the right channel, at the opportune moment.

Programmatic execution platforms such as ad exchanges, ad servers, agency trading desks, and demand side platforms (DSPs), all produce highly granular marketing performance data. This includes impressions and clicks from both converting and non-converting consumers at a channel, publisher, placement, and creative level. While this granular marketing data is not in short supply, it is stored in individual silos. This makes gaining a holistic view of media performance problematic, since programmatic vendors can only provide performance insights based on the media that flows through their own platform. Additionally, credit for individual conversions is at risk of duplication from different programmatic platforms, since these systems don’t communicate with each other.

Marketing attribution addresses these issues by allowing marketers to combine all their marketing performance data into one central repository – where it is normalised to a common format and a shared set of KPIs. This process dissolves data silos, removes the risk of duplication, and provides a holistic, media-neutral view of performance. With this unbiased view, marketers can understand the true impact of each touch point on conversion, across all channels, tactics, and campaigns. When they understand what is working and what is not, they can optimise their programmatic strategies accordingly. Distinct programmatic execution platforms will still buy media independently, but can do so more effectively and efficiently based on a more accurate understanding of performance.

Advanced marketing measurement enables real-time optimisation 

To achieve the greatest return on programmatic media buying, real-time activation of performance insights is essential. Advanced marketing measurement platforms enable more effective optimisation and activation by automatically sending attributed performance data into programmatic execution platforms to inform media buying in real time.

The net result is more relevant, timely customer interactions, as well as increased ROI, as media buys are informed by the most precise and up-to-date performance data available. When accurate performance metrics are used to determine media buys, spending decisions are improved, and budget can be efficiently reallocated to the best performing publishers, placements or keywords.

As an additional bonus, the automated nature of marketing attribution also removes the onerous and time-consuming process of manually loading media buying instructions into programmatic execution platforms.

Marketing attribution improves audience insight

To make the most of programmatic, it is not enough for marketers to simply comprehend the optimal combination of tactics and channels that delivers the best return across their entire audience. They must also be able to determine the mix that provides the best return for each individual audience segment.

By bringing together demographic and behavioural data with media, response, and customer data, advanced marketing attribution allows marketers to gain a far deeper understanding of their audiences. It reveals the channels, placements, publishers, and creatives that generate the greatest performance from each audience segment, so marketers can tailor their tactics accordingly.

Marketing attribution also enables brands to quantify the value of each customer. For example, marketers can easily determine whether a new customer is worth more than an existing customer, and if so, how much more. Moreover, it allows the identification of valuable audience segments, such as those with the highest propensity to convert, or those with the greatest lifetime value. Armed with this insight, marketers can ensure their programmatic efforts are optimised to reach the right audience, minimising wasted advertising spend and generating the highest return.

Advanced marketing measurement is key to successful automated media buying – meaning marketing attribution and programmatic are inextricably entwined. When used together the two processes create a continuous cycle of measurement, optimisation, and activation, enabling marketers to make smarter, more informed decisions. Like all great pairings, marketing attribution and programmatic truly are a match made in heaven.

Ben Sidebottom

Ben Sidebottom


Director, Solution Architecture at Visual IQ.