Blog Post

Digital ≠ MTA: Getting Measurement Right

maggie merklin
maggie merklin 02.24.2020

Why Digital Does Not Equal MTA

“Right person. Right message. Right time.” Marketers have clung to this mantra as a guiding principle for the entirety of the modern marketing age. Given the tools available today, the pressure for personalization has never been higher, and the data explosion of the last two decades has provided an influx of new opportunities to reach individuals in a highly targeted way. But after a prolonged period of growth, the data market is now beginning to contract – due to both long-existing factors like Walled Gardens, and newer regulations like GDPR and CCPA. This contraction, and the subsequent panic, is exposing a major hole in many marketing strategies: the belief that multi-touch attribution is the equivalent of digital measurement.


Equating MTA to digital measurement is a lot like equating Budweiser to beer. If you go to the store and ask where the beer section is, only to be repeatedly pointed to a case of Budweiser and nothing else, you would be frustrated. Budweiser might be an extremely well-known and beloved option, but what if you prefer hard cider, or your friends only drink IPAs, or you’re after a very specific brand? Equating only one brand of beer with all beer leaves no room to decide what you prefer – and preferences vary based on circumstance, context, and desired outcome. Are you aiming for a casual backyard barbecue, or planning an upscale cheese and beer pairing soiree? The answers to those questions will affect the decision you make.


So, let’s bring this back to the world of measurement. Just like Budweiser is only one brand of beer, MTA is only one digital measurement tool in the modern marketer’s toolkit. Other options abound, including experimental design, touchpoint analytics, and – believe it or not – first touch and last click, to name a few. And just as in the beer scenario, marketers need to understand what the end goal is – in this case, what questions they want to answer – in order to choose the right tool. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and that includes MTA. Between walled gardens, blind spots, data limitations and newer challenges like Google’s third-party cookie elimination, the standard idea of MTA is being disrupted. If marketers don’t evolve, and instead continue to treat MTA as the equivalent of digital measurement in this changing landscape, they will be leaving money – and opportunity – on the table.


At Analytic Partners, we’ve evolved our approach to attribution and measurement, referring to it more appropriately as “Touchpoint Analytics”, which was developed specifically to address the challenges of MTA. We can still go into deep, user-level analyses within touchpoints yet always connecting to the full business view.  As with many things, the best approach is a holistic one. That’s why we undertake an adaptive approach, leveraging Commercial Mix Modeling to provide deep insights that drive real value – even without cookie-level visibility. Our approach ensures that even when addressable media touchpoints are a piece of the puzzle, it’s never counted on in isolation as the single point of truth (as in MTA alone). Rather, we apply our CMM solution to integrate customer segment and persona data at a level that does not require user-specific details, while still providing solutions that can be leveraged for accurate audience measurement and targeting.


Commercial Mix Modeling approach allows marketers to be:

  • More granular: by geography, store, channel, and persona
  • More holistic: going beyond media and marketing for a full business view
  • More flexible: enabling multiple views of data and insight to address a spectrum of strategic and tactical questions
  • More adaptive: allowing seamless integration with other solutions


This allows for granular measurement of digital media that drive actionable results and recommendations – such as placement, message, audience, campaign, etc.


MTA is not the only method of digital measurement, just as Budweiser is not the only type of beer. Marketers need the ability to address their entire business at a more granular level than the one provided by MTA alone. By allowing them to do so, Commercial Mix Modeling can act as a foundation for a more unified picture of what’s working and what isn’t. With a Commercial Mix lens at the center, it’s possible to gain a holistic picture of the business by customizing models to address specific market, brand, and business challenges.


After all, why make the default choice when a better-suited option exists – both in marketing measurement and in the beer aisle.


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