We all have gone on a shopping spree at some point in our life, but companies who understand consumer shopping and give credit to marketing messages which might have driven consumers’ buying decisions (marketing attribution) are in the headlines this week. Two top marketing attribution companies, per Forrester research, Adometry and Convertro were acquired by Google and AOL respectively. Maybe it’s just coincidence that these acquisitions happened in the same week by two premium ad-tech solution providers.

What caught my attention are the reasons why Google and AOL acquired these two companies which are unique to each of them, but sound very familiar to me as they both: a) provide marketers and agencies a tool to understand, analyze, and forecast marketing spend using the media mix model, b) integrate offline and online channels into one platform for cross-channel attributions, and c) allow 3rd party vendors to integrate directly into their respective platform.

In my opinion, these are smart acquisitions because there is a growing demand to have cross-channel attributions between direct marketing and digital, linear and digital, and other channels such as email and social. However, the effectiveness of each channel is also a primary driver which can be measured by purchase decision in terms of actual revenue, customer acquisition in terms of registered users, audience engagement in terms of consumption and contributing content. I’m curious to understand how Adometry and Convertro measure marketing effectiveness. It’s a complex algorithm to give credit to channel and allocate percentage spend at the campaign level. Complexities get compounded to incorporate cross-platform tracking per unique user (UU). The UU tracking across direct mail, digital, linear, and other channels is next to impossible, but that shouldn’t stop marketers from not doing anything about it. My take on this is to start with a focus on digital and then to TV everywhere. With connected TV and growing spend of advertising dollars on digital, these are steps in the right direction.

From Google’s perspective, they are the reigning King on search, display, and video channels, but weak on social and integrating offline data. Adometry fits very well in filling those gaps. Google will get access to 3rd party data and audience connectors such as Acxiom, Adobe’s audience manager, etc. through this acquisition. Google is already providing access to their environment via API and/or cloud storage, but they haven’t opened up their platform to consume aggregated data and metrics. I hope the “openness” means they will allow 3rd parties to consume and feed in data beyond audience segment integration.

From AOL’s perspective, I think this acquisition is more strategic to increase capability of their AOL ONE platform. While AOL is a huge brand, they are relatively weak in terms of channel compared to Google, but they are trying to position themselves as premium publishers with their brand name, recent acquisitions such as Adap.tv, and their strong agency partnership with IPG Mediabrands.

Having said that, I believe the decision for marketers to use a cross-channel attribution solution will be where the data currently resides and investment they have already made. If a solution currently exists, it will go deeper to add additional channels and/or feed data into a provider such as Google, AOL, or Adobe.

Here is an interesting question though, now that both Google and AOL have the capability to integrate offline and direct mail data, should they be calling themselves on-line companies or will a new term evolve? Let me know your thoughts.

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