The world of paid social marketing was rocked back in October 2020, when Facebook initially said they would remove the 28-day attribution window for all Facebook ads.
But as Q4 2020 developed, the official rollout came to a halt.
This article covers the 28-day attribution window topic and the impact of removal for brands and advertisers.
Let’s rewind back to October 12th. The announcement would mean advertisers not being able to track direct actions to their campaigns over the 28-day period. Now that the industry dust has settled, the period has been set back to the default 7-day period.
So why all the fuss? The fact is attribution, machine learning models, and “surveillance capitalism” are still figuring out how to work together without triggering new consumer privacy laws.
We’ve already seen how messy GDPR made the web experience in Europe, and California rolling out its own measures this year provides a sneak preview of possible obstacles to come for advertisers.
Yet the fact remains advertisers need to measure different and specific responses to paid campaigns so they can see what is most effective for ROI.
With this model, advertisers were allowed to gather more detailed insights as to how users responded to ads. This allowed for better ad creation and fine-tuning in general.
Due to new data tracking policies, Facebook has been telling advertisers this window will be limited to 7-days to understand the direct results of ad performance.
Note that this rollout is only known to have been paused until the end of Q4 2020. Facebook has told us that “they would not be able to provide a 28-day attribution window in the coming months, as early as January 2021”.
So How Will This Impact You?
As an advertiser, you might think this will greatly impact performance. However, a shorter time period might provide more accurate results when it comes to visitor behaviour.
However, it does depend on your industry. Some industries do take a much longer time to convert or have users go through “the funnel” which made the 28-day attribution model effective for their needs.
The confusion isn’t helped by Facebook’s own messaging. On the one hand they say you might be seeing some decline in your ad performance and conversions if you have been using the 28-day attribution model. On the other hand they go on to say that their delivery models for your ads do not really rely on the 28-day attribution model, so technically you should not be seeing a decline in your overall ad performance.
Let’s clarify that.
Many ecommerce sites have conversions that will occur after the 7-day click window. Meaning most people who would have converted should have already converted in the 7 days. This would hugely affect those websites and companies that have products that are of a higher ticket value. An example of that might be an expensive holiday, or a new car.
Think about all those browser tabs you leave open for days and weeks at a time. See? You get it now. Attribution is hard.
Where the conversion funnel takes a longer time to do its job has always been a bit of a grey area. Why is that?
Facebook wants credit for everything and beyond 7 days many other brand touchpoints can come into active play. Sure, you might have seen a Facebook ad 20 days ago but it could have been the TV ad or YouTube influencer review that made you actually reach for your credit card.
At the end of the day, it was great to have had a longer period of time in which you could track your conversions but the direct effect might not be as damaging as you would think.
What are some of the pros and cons of a 28-day attribution model vs 7-day attribution model?
Let’s Look Into Facebook’s Overall Model
Facebook emphasised in their PR that delivery models don’t rely on a 28-day window, so in theory, there should be little to no impact on campaign performance.
Do we agree with this statement?
This brings us to breaking down the differences in the two models.
The main disadvantage is not the performance of the ad – that doesn’t change. What changes here is the data. It would become harder for you to see the impact of your ads throughout longer customer journeys.
For example, you decide to purchase a new laptop. You saw a cool ad that stands out. You take your time to compare deals and information. In three weeks you’ve decided to purchase it from the same company you saw the ad from. The company now using 7-day attribution would not be able to see which ad primarily contributed to your purchase.
This mostly happens with big ticket items, making it harder for performance marketers in those companies to consolidate and analyse their data.
Again, the main difference here between both attribution models is the loss of data. Even if you are a company that sells smaller ticket items or even products that are more of an impulse purchase, having that data is great as it helps you set up future campaigns. It allows for certain optimisation strategies. For example, you might find a common thread between your purchasers that they tend to buy more after being retargeted compared to when they see the ad the first time.
With that kind of information, you can bring that back to the team and optimise your entire funnel to be more traffic heavy and then have solid retargeting funnels to maximise conversions. With the loss of the 28-day attribution model, you might be losing access to valuable purchase behaviour data.
What To Do
We recommend you export all of your data so that you can also understand how your customer journey looks in 1-day, 7-day and 28-day periods. A little more data analysis won’t hurt anyone.
Another thing you should be doing is to start optimising, reporting and analysing on the new 7-day window to create new baselines for your ads.
In addition, the best way moving forward is to make use of all the features that are available like the Comparing Windows feature so you can see what it looks like in your conversion model for 1-day or what happens in 7-days. The sooner you start, the better.
Data privacy and security will become even more important over time.
As digital marketers, the best we can do is always stay on top of our data and the news. Be ready to shift gear as fast as we can and pivot to ensure we don’t get left behind.