Why All Local Tech Vendors Need Offline Attribution in 2018

Share this:

This post is part of our annual Predictions series, underwritten this year by Freckle IoT, an offline attribution company that solves in-store attribution for brands and agencies. This post offers a preview of Freckle IoT’s plans for 2018. Catch up with Street Fight’s other 2018 forecasts here and here — and watch out for more in the coming weeks.

Last year I wrote here my prediction that in 2017 the advertising industry would increase their overall focus on in-store attribution. While this shift has happened, there have also been a number of events over the past 12 months that provide clues as to where the industry is headed in 2018.  First though, I’d like to quickly revisit last year’s piece.

“Measurement will not come from the vendor itself but rather from third party measurement firms decoupled both from the buying and selling of advertising and from the platforms on which the media runs”

Not quite.  While this will be the eventual end state, there is one more phase before we get there. In much the same way as all vendors support a viewability standard, we will see an acceleration of platforms supporting offline attribution; in 2018 all vendors must add an offline attribution metric to their offering. With Google and Facebook offering their own standalone solutions (to measure only their own media) and with Snap’s 2017 purchase of Placed, anyone in the market of competing for share, will need, at minimum, the same tools as the next guy.  As a result, look for all others in the social space to add an offline attribution solution in 2018 – the real question is will they build it or buy it?

“I believe that by this time next year the majority of mobile campaigns will contain an attribution metric”

Sort of.  But also maybe beside the point. Mobile is definitely the channel that has, on a percentage basis, led the charge around offline attribution due to its symmetry of matching the mobile IDs of individuals seen in a location to those mobile IDs captured in the bidstream, but offline attribution transcends all channels including desktop, mobile, social, search, TV and OOH (all verticals supported at Freckle btw). Mobile impressions alone do not represent a proxy of offline attribution for all of your media and fail to account for the media exposure that all other channels are also providing.

So what’s the prediction? There are two. The first is, as brands pursue offline attribution available from a single channel, they will expand horizontally by adding additional media, the most obvious being mobile and desktop, otherwise known as cross device offline attribution.  Accelerating this trend is the second prediction – that all DSPs, TV providers, Out of Home companies, etc. will add an offline solution (home baked or partnered) in 2018.  For the platforms who are in front of this trend, this will be a tactic used to attract media dollars from those brands who have embraced single channel attribution and are looking to expand into other channels.  The pitch will go something like this:

“we measure offline attribution, competitor X does not, so work with us”


“Spend media dollars with us and we will add offline attribution as value ad” (#biased). 

This tactic will work initially but by the end of 2018 as everyone adopts this strategy, a platform’s ability to differentiate based on a stand alone attribution solution will be similar to differentiating on your ability to support viewability – zero.  Anyone who is considering building their own offline attribution solution should take pause here – if the market is moving to a agnostic measurement provider do you want to put the time and money into building your own solution to support your own media?

The above segues into what I believe will be the larger trend of 2018 – the move towards multi-touch attribution (MTA), which is the evaluation by a third party of who (which ad and which medium) is actually responsible for a store visit.  This is a very complex data science problem, and one that will separate the real measurement firms in the space from those who are only measurement firms when they get kicked off the media buy.

The move to MTA is where things get interesting.  If you subscribe to the notion that brands will embrace MTA (and you should), then who has access to all of the signals from each of their media?  The agencies sure… but also increasingly the brands themselves.  As brands continue to bring advertising components in-house, the by-product of doing so provides them with the ingredients (data) to build solutions to add more intelligence on top of this data.   As brands continue to cut ‘largely ineffective ads’  and look for visibility and proof around decisions, agencies will need to accelerate their positions around MTA or brands will build these solutions in-house.  If successful, the brands will have the data , the measurement and the predictive decision-making in-house – leaving what exactly for agencies?  Not a lot.

neil-sweeney-headshotPrintNeil Sweeney is the founder and CEO of Freckle IoT, a first party data company that solves in store attribution for brands and agencies.