Summertime M&A has put the spotlight on email. The obvious example is Salesforce.com's purchase of ExactTarget, though Adobe's Neolane buy also covers messaging to some extent. Clearly enterprise platforms believe email will eventually be managed centrally through the same workflow as display, video and search campaigns – giving companies a better handle on the fractional credit the channel deserves in the marketing mix.
Clarity sure is needed, according to Visual IQ. As part of an ongoing data partnership with AdExchanger, the attribution specialist recently examined a year's worth of client data about the email channel, from July 2012 through June 2013.
It found that the CPA for email produced through a traditional "last click" measurement model differed from the company's algorithmic, fractionally-attributed metrics by 40% or more on more than half of marketing spend that ran through its system over the last 12 months.
Chief Marketing Officer Bill Muller elaborates: "Specifically, when performance is aggregated across all the brands that include email as one of many channels clients run through Visual IQ’s TrueAttribution process to create algorithmically-attributed TrueMetrics, the CPA on 54.2% of their spend is off by at least 40%."
Additionally, the CPA on more than 10% of that spend is off by at least 500%. Costs factored into Visual IQ's model for email include list rental, fees paid to email service providers, and creative production.
That might seem a striking disparity, but it compares favorably to the display ad channel, where Visual IQ's 2012 data suggests 94% of spend goes to placements with a "CPA skew" that is 70%+ lower than "last click" metrics. (AdExchanger story)
It should be noted that Visual IQ's data does not indicate whether brands are using "last click" metrics – only whether those metrics are over- or under-valued.