Scrubbing Radio’s Attribution Model
Over the past few years larger radio groups like iHeart have begun selling radio campaigns featuring an attribution model which measures web traffic driven by over the air commercials. The software used tracks when a client’s ad runs on a particular station while simultaneously measuring traffic to a URL promoted in the ad. The lookback window for clicks is time based – usually 8 minutes. Using this methodology the radio rep can happily report the amount of traffic driven by their station. On the surface this feels like a strong selling point, but the devil is in the details with this one.
To Radio Ink’s credit, they’ve published an extensive counterargument to radio’s attribution model, penned by Saga Communications VP of Digital Media Matt Nystrom. In his piece Mr. Nystrom points out the methodology flaws with this system. For instance, are stations factoring out organic traffic the site would get anyways or are they taking full credit for every visitors whether driven by the station or not? And what about the issue of two stations running the same ad within the measurement window? In that case which station gets the credit for driving traffic to the URL? Then there’s the issue of radio grading its own test – there’s a reason why digital media uses 3rd party attribution vendors to provide independent reporting.
Perhaps the most salient point of the post is Nystrom’s contention that radio is making a strategic error by training clients on traffic driving metrics as proof that their medium is working. This only promotes short-term marketing gratification . . . my ad runs = I get site visits. As anyone on the digital side can tell you, simple web metrics like CTR are no way to run a marketing campaign. Instead radio needs to refocus its energy on brand building and increasing actual sales for clients. Over the long term it’s so much healthier for the industry than showing off the latest site traffic report.