Multi-Channel Attribution: The Blind Spot of Online Advertising

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SSRN Electronic Journal

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Vibhanshu Abhishek; Stylianos Despotakis; R. Ravi
Elsevier BV
Attribution; Advertising; Shapley Value; Multi Touch; Game Theory; Marketing Funnel
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article description
In this paper, we study the problem of attributing credit for customer acquisition to different components of a digital marketing campaign using an analytical model. We investigate attribution contracts through which an advertiser tries to incentivize two publishers that affect customer acquisition. We situate such contracts in a two-stage marketing funnel, where the publishers should coordinate their efforts to drive conversions. First, we analyze the popular class of multi-touch contracts where the principal splits the attribution among publishers using fixed weights depending on their position. Our first result shows the following counterintuitive property of optimal multi-touch contracts: higher credit is given to the portion of the funnel where the existing baseline conversion rate is higher. Next, we show that social welfare maximizing contracts can sometimes have even higher conversion rate than optimal multi-touch contracts, highlighting a prisoners’ dilemma effect in the equilibrium for the multi-touch contract. While multi-touch attribution is not globally optimal, there are linear contracts that “coordinate the funnel” to achieve optimal revenue. However, such optimal-revenue contracts require knowledge of the baseline conversion rates by the principal. When this information is not available, we propose a new class of ‘reinforcement’ contracts and show that for a large range of model parameters these contracts yield better revenue than multi-touch.