The Drum Awards Festival - Extended Deadline

-d -h -min -sec


Why last click should be your last choice – #backtothefuture

By Cindy Tan, Vice president of display

January 31, 2019 | 5 min read

We’ve all heard this before, it’s not like it’s breaking news. But do we truly know the true value of our ads? Or as my good mother would nag, know the value of what you’ve spent like a fool.


It might make sense, in theory, to give the credit to the last ad a person saw before they made their purchasing decision.

It is paramount that we understand how various ad campaigns perform, who actually sees them, and most importantly, how they change the behaviour of those who see them – if at all. Yet in today’s digital world of endless possibilities and at the dizzying speed at which new technologies launch, the last click attribution model still seems to be the preferred method to determine which ads make consumers buy an item.

It might make sense, in theory, to give the credit to the last ad a person saw before they made their purchasing decision. But typically there're a number of other factors that influence the consumer action – these are unrecognized under this model. For example, a user could see an ad for X hotel first on TV, then hear about it on the radio before booking online. A last click method would give 100% of credit and revenue to the consumer’s final stop, entirely ignoring the role the other two players in the consumer’s decision. This is a flawed approach and advertisers across the board are quick to agree.

Research from Performance In released in 2016 found that although an astounding 54% of marketers used the last click attribution model, just 14% believed it was highly effective. That’s a pretty small number! Fast forward to 2019, research from both AdRoll and Digiday still shows at least 40% of marketers using the last click attribution model.

We need to recognise that views of a separate ad campaign on the same or other channels can be just as impactful as the campaign that gets credit for the last click. Messages often stick with people long after they see an ad, so ignoring the views an ad gets and simply looking at engagement isn’t accurate when trying to understand consumer behaviour. In fact, for many businesses, 99% of the conversions and sales come from branded keyword traffic, according to Will Marlow Agency. Surely this means that consumers know your brand’s name, but the million-dollar question is what made them think of your brand in the first place? To move the needle for search, what you really need to know is what advertisement introduced them to your brand and product in the first place, and not what drove the final click.

In summary, there are three key limitations to the last click attribution model:

1) It gives maximum credit to the wrong advertising channel.

2) It ignores all contributing factors that caused a consumer to discover a product and grow interest in it.

3) It de-emphasizes the high-value views of an advertisement. We know that 96% of users do not click on ads; last click attribution only sheds light on the 3.6% of users who do. This ignores a huge group!

The good news is that there are superior ways to understand the effectiveness of ads. Attribution marketing is a much more impactful alternative as it can determine how the roles of different channels have played in ad sales, giving credit where it is due. Switching to attribution marketing will help you better understand influence, behaviour, and where the heart of the ad success lies. And can help establish you as your brand’s marketing rock star.

Cindy Tan is the vice president of display for the Asia Pacific at TripAdvisor. She is also a regional board member at the IAB South East Asia and India (IAB SEA+India).


More from Advertising

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +