NEW YORK: Frustrated marketers seeking cross-channel attribution are having to settle for using last-touch, a leading industry figure has said, although the number of channels now available has made even that problematic.

Leon Zemel, chief analytics officer at data management platform [x+1], told eMarketer that marketers were struggling with issue of attribution, whether at the broad level of investment allocation or more specific ad placement.

He thought there was a widespread desire to do things better but this was being stymied as basic attribution had become more challenging. "Maybe that's the reason we're still seeing many marketers just trying to even figure out last-click or last-touch attribution, particularly as more channels have come about," he suggested.

Zemel put forward a number of reasons why marketers were struggling to move beyond a last-touch approach. Developing a marketing mix model of attribution for investment purposes and gathering data took time and the results might not be available until a campaign was over "That doesn't do much good, unless you're a marketer with a very long, stable, ongoing campaign," he remarked.

Another factor was the nature of digital which functioned as both an outbound marketing channel and an inbound fulfilment channel, but in this case a last-touch model could offer significant insight to marketers.

"Last-touch can tell them that this placement is better than that one, or this keyword is better than the other," Zemel explained. "So you're still seeing marketers and agencies forgoing a more sophisticated approach in order to do that."

While the best approach would be a marriage of these top-down and bottom-up approaches, Zemel observed that direct-response advertisers tended to use the second of these, while those focused on branding opted for the first, although the situation was starting to blur.

"Even the direct-response people who are taking a path analysis approach do want to make sure it bubbles up into a broader marketing mix model," he said. And brands running marketing mix models were beginning to break out digital into separate channels.

In some categories, such as consumer packaged goods, digital was still too small a proportion of the marketing budget to be able to effectively isolate individual digital channels, but in others brands were "looking to break up digital between things like search and display".

Data sourced from eMarketer; additional content by Warc staff