Marketers still need to get a lot smarter when it comes to attribution. Current understanding of the issues remains limited, and it is a problem that is undermining confidence in the industry, according to Matt Prohaska, CEO and Principal of Prohaska Consulting.

“Too many marketers still keep score from their agencies or other buying partners on last-click/last-view,” Prohaska told Which-50.

“It creates too much of the wrong incentives for publishers and other inventory aggregators to jam as many ads, viewable or non-viewable, in front of someone just to try to sneak in for credit.”

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Prohaska has been involved in media and advertising for 25 years, including starting the online media practice for brands like Visa, FedEx and Pepsi. He also developed the programmatic program at The New York Times in 2013 where he was the programmatic advertising director, before moving into consulting.

He told Which-50 that while the programmatic sector is maturing in markets like the US, UK and Australia, the approach of marketers to attribution remains an issue.

“Imagine you are being charged to get people to come to your bar and are handed 100 flyers. So instead of walking around Sydney passing them out to have people come by that night, you stand outside the front door of the bar and hand them to people just before they walk in,” Prohaska said.

“That’s a bit like of what’s going on — firing too many ads. And it will continue until marketers move to attribution models that spread credit around better and use an independent source not owned by one of the top three digital publishers out there.”

The problem has remained as programmatic has increased in popularity, according to Prohaska.

The Programmatic Evolution

Originally programmatic was a strategy used to sell unsold inventory, but publishers soon realised all standard inventory could be transacted programmatically, he said. It meant the same impression could be sold faster, with better targeting and at a higher CPM.

Digital Advertising Industry Veteran, Matt Prohaska.

Initially publishers were understandably cautious.

“We spent a lot of time at NYTimes, and with many other publishers globally, showing sales teams that their relationships do not have to go away, compensation doesn’t drop, and there is more reason to be on offence on programmatic instead of defence.”

Ultimately the paradigm shift around programatic is recognising it is potentially for every client and every campaign, Prohaska said.

But while publishers and advertisers have warmed to programatic, the attribution problem has been unsolved, or at least misunderstood, Prohaska said.

Acting On The Data

Despite the problem, effective digital advertising can deliver actionable insights. But acting on the data can be tough, especially when it goes against organisational culture, Prohaska said.

“At some places, it is very hard. We recently helped a major publisher retrain four people in their new analytics team moved from another department to show them how to grab the data outputs, tell proper stories, and create action steps for editorial, sales, product, and operations.”

“It’s a big shift when decisions have been made by the same people, in the same meetings, with often the same lack of consistent insights. Those teams with the courage to bring in new talent and/or accept new strategies from new places will continue to evolve and win more business from their advertisers or customers respectively,” Prohaska said.

Discover how programmatic is changing advertising and hear from 45+ local and international thought-leaders at the Programmatic Summit on March 1st.

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