Attribution’s Missing Math with Jim Spaeth

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When Jim Spaeth co-founded Sequent Partners, he had no idea how much the business of measurement would change. After serving as President of the ARF and decade developing new research tools he could not dream of doing anything else. Hear how (and why) he’s embracing industry change.

Guest bio:

Jim Spaeth, is co-founder of Sequent Partners, the foremost thought leadership consultancy for brand and media measurement, and ROI.  Prior to co-founding Sequent Partners, Jim served for seven years as president of the Advertising Research Foundation. Under Jim’s leadership, the ARF expanded its scope to incorporate all aspects of market research practice on a global basis, including marketing and media, ROI, CRM, brand valuation, digital marketing, and the transformation of the research function to a discipline focused on the value creation.

Prior to his leadership role at the ARF, Jim spent over a decade developing new research tools to improve client’s business performance, and led media research and planning functions at General Foods, and Young & Rubicam, an inductee into the Market Research Council Hall of Fame in 2016, he was honored by the Advertising Research Foundation in 2017, when he received the Erwin Ephron Demystification Award.

He is the co-author of Market Research Matters and numerous articles, as well as a frequent conference speaker. Jim’s a true student of measurement and that’s why I’m excited he’s here with us today.

Key takeaways:

[2:00] I introduce today’s guest, Jim Spaeth, and asks him about how he came to be where he is today.

[7:06] Jim touches on why attribution came to surpass marketing mixed modeling and how it has evolved into the ability to read today and make a change tomorrow. This quick turnaround time and this agility are responsible for attribution’s current spike in popularity — and some of the mistakes and omissions newcomers tend to do!

[11:17] I highlight a point made by Jim that attribution is an offshoot of media mix and marketers need to be involved, not just data scientists who don’t have any knowledge of the previous 30-40 years of marketing data analysis.

[12:50] Jim shares an example of how he approaches building a mental model for their business with a client and which KPI he helps them pick out and why. Understanding how your business operates is the starting point to any kind of marketing strategy — including attribution.

[16:48] Ignoring history will lead to avoidable mistakes, I point out the Netflix problem: “too much is like not enough.”

[18:25] Jim uses an example to underscore one of the big issues with data gaps on the publisher side: the missing variable bias.

[24:34] Marketers used to be idea people, they would spend time building their customer avatar and fleshing out strategies, but there has been a shift towards the data-driven marketer, which is much more akin to finance. I ask Jim why there is no love for attribution in finance?

[26:31] Jim and I discuss the ideal organizational place of attribution.

[28:09] Is Insights a wizard?

[29:02] Jim and I dive into what we see as the future of attribution, despite the missing variable bias and a few caveats.

[37:09] Before closing out, Jim makes a special mention of the value of creative.

[39:07] I thank Jim for coming on the podcast and sharing so much of his experience.

Be sure to tune in for next episode and thanks for listening!

Connect with our guest:

Jim Spaeth at Sequent Partners

Jim Spaeth on LinkedIn

Mentioned in this episode:

C3 Metrics

Sequent Partners

Advertising Research Foundation

Book: Market Research Matters: Tools and Techniques for Aligning Your Business,
by Jim Spaeth

About your host:

Jeff Greenfield is the Co-Founder and Chief Attribution Officer of C3 Metrics. As the chief architect of the platform, Greenfield worked directly with the former CEO and Chairmen of Nielsen to solve advertising’s Attribution problem.

Greenfield’s history of technology and marketing initiatives have served blue-chip clients including GlaxoSmithKline, Kimberly-Clark, Sony BMG, Black & Decker, Forest Labs, Plum Creek, and more.

Prior to co-founding C3 Metrics, Greenfield was a recognized thought leader in the area of Branded Content as publisher of Branded Entertainment Monthly, a joint effort with VNU Media, detailing industry statistics, gaps, and trends. He’s been a featured speaker at NAPTE, The Next Big Idea, and a news source in: The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, ABC, CBS, CNET, and Investor’s Business Daily.

Greenfield studied Biochemistry at the University of Maryland, holds dual degrees from Southern California University of Health Sciences and is an instrument rated pilot.

Jeff Greenfield at C3 metrics

Jeff Greenfield on LinkedIn

Jeff Greenfield on Twitter

Quotes (edited):

“Facebook has attribution, Amazon has attribution, marketers feel like they have to have it but they don’t really understand it!” — Jeff Greenfield

“Attribution is the manifestation of a dream we’ve had for a long time.” — Jim Spaeth

“Garbage in, garbage out; bad data is going to end up with bad results.” — Jeff Greenfield

“When somebody just approaches this with a lot of data and they throw machine learning at it, or any analytic technique thoughtlessly, God knows what you’ll come up with!”
— Jim Spaeth

“It’s science, and it starts with a hypothesis and then you bring in the data and you prove it or disprove it and in an iterative process you refine it until you have a model that’s validated in its ability to predict.” — Jim Spaeth

“The biggest issue is that there is no transparency into the data, or into the methods, there is a need for an industry laboratory.” — Jim Spaeth

“Attribution is measuring in-market performance for specific creative executions.”
— Jim Spaeth

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