As brand advertising takes on more of the characteristics of performance, inevitably there will be a push to more directly attribute sales to a category of marketing spend that has avoided such scrutiny in the past. We asked sell and buy-side marketers around the region how likely this is.

The future of advertising is automation, says Peter Barry, Country manager PubMatic. “I see a continuing shift of brand budgets, which are quickly becoming the largest portion of programmatic spend, to automated channels. Attracting brand spend offers a huge growth opportunity for the industry.”

Of course there are a number of speed bumps on the way such as brand safety concerns, viewability debates and the growing problem of ad fraud.

Peter Barry, Country Manager, PubMatic, Australia and New Zealand

“The recent initiatives we’ve seen to develop transparency, tackle fraud and improve quality like ads.txt and the soon to be announced ads.cert, as well as initiatives like PubMatic’s fraud free program for buyers, are all about rebuilding trust and confidence in digital,” he says.

But there is another issue that comes from trying to apply performance style transparency to brand campaigns – marketers will want to start attributing sales more directly to the brand spend.

And given the farcical extent to which many marketers even in some of the largest companies still rely on first click and last click attribution models, that could make for some interesting budgeting conversations in the year ahead.

With data analytics and more recently machine learning emerging as important tools in the marketer’s arsenal, how likely is it that marketers will finally crack the attribution nut?

Better attribution can’t come soon enough for a lot of company leaders.

Haley Doel, a B2B regional marketing specialist at software house Siteimprove says management and key stakeholders want to see a direct line to revenue generated from advertising spend.

“[This] can be sometimes more challenging to show with brand advertising as the customer journey often follows multiple touch points before converting to a sales outcome.”

Fragmented stacks

She says there are challenges with fragmented marketing stacks, or integrations of offline advertising campaigns, especially as new technologies and platforms continue to enter the market.

“It’s important that the cost of the technology to track and report and the workload on teams doesn’t outweigh returns, finding this balance can be a challenge.”

According to Liz Miller, senior VP marketing at the Chief Marketing Office Council in the US, “The coming year will see some interesting shifts as more organisations apply AI to their marketing and advertising operations. With AI crunching the numbers on both campaigns and customers, we will start to see opportunities to shift creative on the fly, better target and engage as well as quickly test a multitude of messaging to identify best brand messaging that resonates with customers to shift and mold profitable behaviours.”

All of this should also move marketers closer to being able to determine the return on each dollar spent.

“To fully capitalise on this, the CMO will need teams and talent that can optimise performance while also honing their skills as storytellers and engagement leaders,” she told Which-50.

CMOs like Employment Hero’s Cat Prestipino believe it is inevitable that attribution technology will improve over time. “More complicated attribution modelling will become more accessible to marketers and, as a result, the impact of brand advertising will become clearer for brand to see.”

At the same time she says there is a limitation. “Marketing has become more scientific over the last decade with more predictability around its impact and accountability for its results. However, at the end of the day, marketing is about influencing people and there will always be an element of the dark arts to that.”

“We will never know exactly what combination of activity encouraged someone to make a decision and to that point, we will never be able to truly attribute the impact of marketing in a completely finite way.”

Perhaps not, but marketing technologists like Timothy Whitfield, the VP Strategic Solutions, APAC at Sizmek, suggests its only a matter of time before the natural progression of technology allows marketers to tackle otherwise difficult problems like attribution.

Moore’s Law states that technology will double in speed and capacity each two years, says Whitfield.

“That means that in two years time, processes that are edge cases at the moment, will become more standard. For instance; computations which require Artificial Intelligence, Image Recognition, Dynamic Content Options in Video all require more computational power. As technology continues to advance then these features will become more main stream.”

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