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Why Real-Time Attribution Is Critical To Your Direct Response Media Strategy

DRTV Real-time attribution is a total myth, a fad, and worst of all, a marketing scheme.

Or is it?

Real-time attribution is in fact very real and very important to any advertiser dedicated to optimizing their marketing programs as quickly and efficiently as possible. Get the most out of your DRTV marketing attribution!

Advertising on television is both dynamic and expensive. For a month’s worth of digital campaigns, you get one spot, and the context around that spot can shift dramatically at any given time. Media practitioners can plan the channel, program, and timing of their ad, but not the day’s political happenings, international events, or weather. Marketing, especially on TV, depends on psychology – and psychology depends on immediate circumstances.

Political Advertising And The Trickling Effects In DRTV Land

Take the current political climate. Not only do election seasons suck up tremendous amounts of inventory, but they also add a highly volatile element to the ad placements that are secured. “Big picture” topics are top of mind. Consumers are bombarded with messaging around the future of their families and country. In this context, discretionary items can seem frivolous, or worse, associated with a platform that violates the viewer’s values. As a result, windows of opportunity are small, precise, and continuously shifting. Creative doesn’t burn out – the market changes merely on a dime.

Success in this environment demands a meticulous understanding of which stations, programs, and creative are working at any given time, and why. All systems must align to get the right message to the right people at the right time: spray and pray is no longer an option. But testing is a challenge. Due to limited inventory and short time frames, there is often little or no opportunity to fine-tune your placements in the traditional way.

Standard Vs Real-Time Attribution – What’s The Difference?

Standard attribution solutions struggle to keep up as well. Some tools can take up to months to return optimization recommendations, which are then mostly moot given how quickly market psychology changes. Even a lag of one or two weeks no longer cuts it; while regression algorithms may work in less time-sensitive scenarios, there just isn’t enough runway for them to be effective in today’s DRTV landscape.

Which brings us to real-time attribution. “Real-time” suffers severely from buzzword-it is, with varying and flexible definitions depending on delivery. Some attribution providers claim to operate holistically in real time, but only measure digital day-to-day while TV lags far behind. Others argue that the mere idea of real-time attribution is either impossible and/or without value.

This argument typically stems from being overly literal. Is to-the-second attribution an option? Perhaps not. Is it possible to analyze and act on attribution data hourly or daily to keep up with today’s media climate? Absolutely. With a blended algorithm model, such as the Ensemble Method, media planners are no longer beholden to outdated time-reliant data analysis.

Let’s Get Real For Reals – Real-Time Baby

“Real” real-time attribution accurately assumes what is happening in the marketplace based on a subset of data. Instead of relying on post-log data from two weeks ago, it analyzes daily pre-logs against up-to-the-minute web traffic. Say you aired a spot on Fox News during prime time. Based on the data modeling, we can determine that it worked – site traffic spiked. As a result, the media planner can go back to the station and make sure that particular inventory, in those particular spots, is clearing, and potentially add or subtract inventory in other locations based on performance. If a spot is working well in prime time, you shouldn’t pay as much for morning spots, or vice versa. You now can negotiate based on actual information.

These real-time optimizations carry significant weight given the size and importance of TV ad spend. Even a two-degree improvement – and when done right, real-time attribution is capable of much more – can confer a tremendous benefit to a million dollar per week campaign. This easily offsets the cost of the tool, especially when compared to less actionable, more long-term data.


Real-time attribution is not a myth, a fad, or a marketing scheme. It’s very real and very important to any advertiser dedicated to optimizing their marketing programs as quickly and efficiently as possible. Market psychology changes daily. Make sure your media strategy can keep up.

What Is Media Attribution And Why It Matters

In addition, below are more resources about media attribution, and understanding why data-driven marketing attribution is important for DRVT in 2018.

  • How to: Setting Up Marketing Attribution Solution for Better ROI
  • Real-time attribution speeds TV campaigns to profitability
  • Modern DRTV Advertising Attribution Designed with Media Pro in Mind

Tracy Kemmer

Director of Client Services Conversion Logic