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Why Attribution Matters -> Page 1 of

Why Attribution Matters

Attribution is the ability to track the performance of each marketing effort and determine which of them are profitable and effective and which are not. 

In today’s digital world it’s discussed mainly through the different marketing channels – if a Facebook ad led to an app download, a marketer can see a conversion through Facebook’s platform (i.e the download was attributed to the Facebook ad) whereas in the pre-digital marketing world it was much harder to attribute a marketing channel with a conversion (marketers can’t tell if a billboard led a customer into a store to make a purchase, or if it was a TV ad, they’re limited to seeing that their campaigns led to an increase in revenue). 

Marketing in the Dark

Marketing Attribution in a Non-Digital Environment

A Pile of coupons


Before the full adoption of the internet, tracking the performance of ad campaigns was inherently limited. While there were a variety of different methods, companies used to gain insights into their consumers’ behaviors and preferences, most if not all were mostly ineffective and overpriced. 

Companies used coupons, where they offered discounts on their product by having consumers use a piece of paper indicating they deserve it. Tracking large amounts of coupons, sometimes through multiple branches (in the case of big chain stores) without the use of digital means is nearly impossible (or extremely expensive). Imagine Walmart or Target trying to track coupons usage across their hundreds of branches in the US alone. 

In some cases, consumers would volunteer information about what made them make a purchase (through feedback surveys or just casual conversation). Again, a method that provides partial information, and is unscalable. 

For example, think back on a post-purchase Give Us Feedback survey, where consumers relay their experience in the store and the service they’ve received. If consumers chose to fill it, they already had a positive experience, which means that the feedback is gathered with a positive bias, rendering the results unreliable. 

Secondly, their paper-filled answers will now have to be read and analyzed in order to draw conclusions. Doing so takes time and money, marketers are left with partial unreliable insights (only some consumers who had a positive experience filled it) and the conclusions are drawn late after the fact (depending on how big the company is, it can take up to months to gather the data).

The Role of Marketing Agencies

The inability to track and gain insights from the different marketing efforts led advertisers to hire marketing agencies. The agencies, in turn, would spend tremendous budgets to run branding campaigns that were ostensibly impossible to measure. 

The idea behind branding campaigns is getting a wide-spread exposure to the product, company, or brand while delivering a key message, like Nike’s famous Just Do It. Not only did everyone know Nike as a sports brand, everyone knew this key message. Branding campaigns are effective for creating a familiarity with a brand, a sense of trust, and conveying a key message with which consumers recognize the brand. 

The problem with branding campaigns, other than the fact that in order to be effective, the budgets must be substantial, is that after all the time, effort and resources put into them it’s nearly impossible to track the performance of the campaign and attribute the success of the TV ad or the billboard sign and gain insights into which parts of the campaign worked and how.

The Era of Digital Attribution

The Core of Attribution - Tracking Your Campaigns

Since digital marketing came into our world, there have been many attempts to track attribution before settling on today’s common practices. For example, there was an attempt to connect physical actions with digital trackings, like in the case of QR codes where consumers had to scan a code to get discounts, but these attempts never succeeded in getting widespread adoption by consumers. 

Today, when attribution is accessible and available through mobile devices, and it’s compatible with the behavior of users (i.e users spend hours on their phones, reading, playing, buying, downloading, etc’) budgets are being overwhelmingly shifted to mobile.

Through the usage of mobile phones, without physical involvement, it’s significantly easier to track ad campaigns’ performance down to extremely granular levels – there’s a distinction between ad impressions and ad clicks. If it’s a video ad, there’s an element of duration (if a user watched the full video or chose to skip it) and then the tracking continues down the funnel (was there a download, a purchase, and if the channel drove high user retention – depending on the goal of the campaign). 

The ability to track in such detail at a relatively low cost enabled more products to enter the market, run ad campaigns, and track their performance and rapidly made mobile marketing the largest marketing channel. 

The Problem of Fraud

Mobile Fraud and Its Impact on Ad Campaigns

Having the ability to track all digital campaigns should lead to budgets being spent more effectively – advertisers can track which campaigns work, and expand their spend on them, and which campaigns don’t and stop them, all in a significantly shorter amount of time (compared to non-digital attribution) while still running campaigns at scale. 

Unfortunately, in a similar fashion to any transaction that happens online, ad campaigns attract the attention of fraudsters, which without tracking and enforcement can wreak havoc and completely distort the data gathered, and thus the insights drawn from this data, impacting the decision-making process. 

Running campaigns without fraud prevention also means risking spending (at least partially) on fraudulent activity, instead of actual users, hindering their performance and deeming their outcomes non-representative. 

“To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy” – Sun Tzu

Knowing Your Enemy

The Importance of Active Familiarity with Fraud Methods

In order to successfully run mobile ad campaigns and avoid wasting time and money on fraud, attribution platforms evolved and started incorporating fraud detection tools. You can learn more about the different tools provided by different platforms in our list of vendors

Info Container

Fraud Prevention @

Attribution platforms and media buyers are working together to vanquish fraud. One of the efforts is the foundation of CAAF by Adjust. has been a CAAF member since 2018.

With all available fraud detection tools, and all knowledge gathered, fraud is gradually being reduced in the mobile marketing industry, but since we’re not yet at the point of eliminating it, advertisers still need to be cautious about who they partner with for running their ads. 

Everyone involved, including stakeholders, should familiarise themselves with the possibility of fraud and the breadth of the phenomenon.  

In order to make an educated choice, prior to partnering with a marketing company, UA managers should check the company’s existing partners (and their feedback), the company’s experience, their platform, and service, and make an educated choice. 

When running ad campaigns, UA managers (or anyone else managing the campaigns) should familiarise themselves with how to detect fraudulent behavior. 

Stand Out From the Crowd

How to Run Successful Mobile Ad Campaigns in an Overflowing App Market


In the digital realm, it’s easier to create and market a product (think of the possible reach in a digital campaign vs. having to run this same campaign using billboards). Since the barrier of entry is much lower, there’s an overflow of products and the competition is harder than ever. 

Advertisers need to emphasize what’s unique about their product and capitalize on it. Using performance data, gathered by an attribution platform, can help market the product’s strengths and reach users by highlighting their most liked features.  

In conclusion, attribution is key to making informed decisions in regards to ad spend and budget allocation. The availability of attribution tracking in the mobile industry and the scale it provides allows for more products to enter the market and for smarter, more precise ad campaigns. 

On the other hand, with the attribution platform, marketers can also look at event data and see around which events (that represent actions or milestones of the users inside the app) users are most engaged and develop creatives around their correlating feature, as it seems to resonate with the apps user base (if it’s an e-commerce app, then the best selling item, if it’s a game then it can be a popular stage in a game, and so on).

For example, marketers can test the effect of different creatives on the users they acquire. If they ran campaigns with several different creatives (as one should), all of which brought a significant amount of users, but the users exposed to one variation performed better (i.e had higher retention rates, converted better down the funnel) then the marketers managing the campaign can notice that and then use the best-performing creative in other campaigns. 

UA Glossary

Measuring in a lab and attributing

Measure twice, attribute once