For centuries, scientists have been running experiments as the proven method for testing theories and measuring outcomes. In fact, controlled experiments were once the gold standard for advertising measurement – until digital channels offered data so granular we could build click-paths of users as they moved about the internet.

Distracted for a decade by MTA

Tracking customers and assigning the appropriate credit to every advertising touchpoint on their path to conversion was the appealing promise of multi-touch attribution (MTA) – and the adtech industry spent the better part of a decade trying to make it work.

Multi Touch Attribution & Advertising touchpoints on their path to conversion

MTA presented an elegant solution for measuring advertising ROI, but every new channel brought more challenges and, for a variety of reasons, MTA initiatives almost always fell short. Now, without user-level tracking, MTA isn’t just flawed, it’s impossible.

4 reasons to walk away from MTA
  • MTA doesn’t calculate the actual contribution of media. MTA is anchored correlations, applied in a mysterious black box, to assign attribution to every observable touch point. Correlation is not causation.
  • MTA is expensive and takes a long time to deploy. One of the top complaints by marketers is that effective MTA deployments require months, sometimes years to achieve. It’s cumbersome and expensive.
  • MTA requires actual touchpoints. Restrictions on user-tracking and third-party data access make building legitimate online click-paths a thing of the past. “Synthetic” touchpoints offered by some MTA vendors are a biased, ineffective replacement
  • MTA cannot measure non-addressable media. Because it is anchored on observing behavior at the individual level, MTA cannot account for the impact of non-addressable media like linear TV, out-of-home, radio, and print.

Brands that experiment will grow

Most DTC brands follow a similar path as their marketing measurement capabilities mature from basic reporting essentials to a level of sophistication that drives strategy. Early on, marketing measurement is often considered a necessary task to satisfy company stakeholders. To justify budgets, marketing teams compile data from each media platform into metrics reports designed to show how well campaigns performed.

For marketing to mature into a true growth-driver, measurement has to graduate from static snapshots of the past to a dynamic source of truth that continuously improves results for the business. Successful DTC brands using measurement to orchestrate future success all have one thing in common – they have embraced a test and learn mentality.

Protective of their highly-scrutinized budgets, marketers may be quick to dismiss risking dollars on testing long-held beliefs or trying out new concepts, but that conservative stance is short-sighted. Questioning and stress-testing the trends, intuition, and habits that many brands take for granted can lead to the discovery of significant growth opportunities.

Light bulb depicting pro tip for DTC marketers


Brands that invest in quality experimentation perform 15% better in the same year than brands that don’t – and 30% better in the year that follows. – Harvard Business Review