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Industry Contributor 9 Nov 2021 - 4 min read

Unpopular opinion: Last click attribution was (and kind of still is) great

By Joe Frazer - Co-Founder, Half Dome

Former IAB CEO and President Greg Stuart recently told Mi3: “Last click became a currency of the internet due to laziness, and it was a mistake to give it credibility." I wholeheartedly disagree. Here's why.

I wrote a piece a few weeks back about the oversimplification of value as a concept in our industry and the negative impact that can have on taking opportunities to drive efficiency. The response was compelling with senior leaders from across the spectrum reaching out to wholeheartedly agree.

I felt the second instalment in my rant at the industry should address the number two most oversimplified, yet horridly complex element.

Attribution.

The first thing I will say is this, I get it, most of us didn’t study data and analytics at university. We watched a few episodes of Mad Men, maybe did a psychology degree and realised couches weren’t our thing, or a lucky few even studied marketing or comms, or PR. Not data though.

Enter digital media and suddenly PowerPoint became Excel, small data became big data, and decision making was meant to be scientific.

I read a quote from the former IAB CEO and President Greg Stuart recently who said that: “Last click became a currency of the internet due to laziness, and it was a mistake to give it credibility.”

I wholeheartedly disagree.

Do I think last click attribution has been misused by lazy marketers? Yes.

Do I think as part of a broader understanding of what you are trying to achieve, knowing which digital channels are sweeping leads through is a valuable insight? Yes.

Media is hard but we need more ways to measure, not less.

Now, let’s talk enterprise level clients, because if you are spending $30,000 on Facebook and Google SEM advertising a month as a startup and someone has convinced you that last click attribution doesn’t work for you, you shouldn’t be reading this.

As an enterprise level client, if you are moving your marketing budget around based on the channels driving the most last click leads, that’s a bad call. But if you have a planned portion of your budget which has been designed to do just this, then last click attribution is a great way, probably the best way, to understand the channels and tactics doing that most effectively.

Google’s recent move away from this is not an indication that they believe that this has changed, it is a function of it no longer being possible.

The data driven attribution model in Google Analytics is designed to plug holes in the attribution landscape thanks to Apple being the ‘white knight’ for consumer privacy (and their own shareholders) as much as it is designed to give credit to channels contributing to success outside of last click attribution.

I put the shoddy use of last click attribution, instead of the intelligent use of it, as one part of the story, down to this notion that people in this industry are forever looking for silver bullets hiding around most corners.

The reality of the situation is marketing and advertising is complex - really, really, really complex. By my eye, it is the hardest commerce discipline by a country mile, which would seem to be supported by the fact there has been little to no progress in 100 years on creating too many proven models to what success looks like.

If I have to hear another agency leader quote Albert Einstein’s “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”, I may keel over and die. Let’s start respecting the fact we work in a complex field and there are some elements of decision making that need to be driven by disparate data sets, information, and experience being stitched together in complex ways.

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Joe Frazer

Co-Founder, Half Dome

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