Director, Programmatic

How to Prove the Value of Upper-Funnel Display Advertising

It's All About the Data

Performance marketing is all about the data. Rise knows this and we base pretty much everything we do around that truth. But sometimes the data needs some help. For example, many marketers rely on last-touch as their main attribution model, which gives full credit to the final touch or visit a user completes before converting. They then allocate most of their dollars into Paid Search, for example, given that the data showed that lower-funnel channel as the main driver of conversions.


Let’s think about that for a second longer though, how did the user know what to search for? You could guess that they saw a recent upper-funnel display campaign, but that would be just a guess. Welcome to the core problem when determining how effective your programmatic digital marketing is within a full-funnel campaign. You need more data to prove its value. 

Programmatic advertising is typically higher in the funnel than Paid Search, and even Paid Social. Since last-touch attribution skips the user’s overall journey to conversion, programmatic does not show up as a top "converting" channel, even though most customer journeys require multiple media touchpoints. That doesn’t mean that using last-touch should be forbidden, but it does mean that you need help to determine if upper-funnel ad inventory is having a positive impact on a full-funnel campaign, but not receiving credit.

Before we dig into the solutions, here is what we know about full-funnel marketing:

  • Almost 96% of visitors who land on your website are not ready to commit to a purchase. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t persuade them.
  • Customer journeys rarely move directly from awareness to consideration to purchase. A full-funnel strategy helps you reach more customers across more touchpoints throughout their journey. 
  • There will come a point where you max out bottom of funnel. You have to build awareness and establish credibility for when your customer is in buy mode.

While executing a full-funnel strategy includes content creation, audience targeting, and real-time optimizations, you need the measurement and data to prove its investment impact to stakeholders. We are sharing how to prove the value of upper-funnel display advertising, a channel with some of the highest reach, widest ad inventory, and most transparency of any digital marketing channel. 

Tools for Upper-Funnel Valuation

Rise uses innovative tools to confirm the value of upper-funnel when dealing with a last-touch attribution model. Two of these tools not only inform how to continue improving a full-funnel strategy, they also determine which programmatic tactics need further investment. 

1. The Trade Desk Path to Conversion Report

The Trade Desk (TTD) is one of the fastest-growing, demand-side platforms with best-in-class technology to manage display, social, mobile, and video advertising campaigns. Rise maintains a strong partnership with TTD along with a trading academy certification on the TTD platform so that our clients can benefit from more robust cross-device targeting and programmatic attribution. 

The main attribution tool we use with TTD is the Path to Conversion Report. This report is fueled by The Trade Desk’s Universal Pixel, a JavaScript pixel that efficiently provides user tracking on multiple advertiser landing pages at once. 

The Trade Desk's Universal Pixel powerfully captures data not only on all pages of a site, but also across multiple sites. The data provides more visibility for marketers to analyze and capture performance-based insights.

Rise’s programmatic team then layers on cross-channel mapping to determine where the user came from across channels. Specifically, we leverage GCLID and FBID mappings to determine if a user who was served a display ad from TTD can be matched back to a Meta or Google ad. By incorporating multiple tools, we discover a more holistic user journey in addition to their last-click attribution touches on Paid Social and Paid Search. 

2. Google Path to Conversion Report

When crafting the full customer story, there is never enough data. Rise is among the top 3% of Google Partners in the U.S. as a Premier Partner, and a Google Analytics Certified Partner with more than 100 certified employees leveraging paid search, display, video ads, mobile, shopping, and Google Analytics. This partnership allows Rise to create unique, customized strategies to brands based on the vast amount of data that Google provides.

Google’s Path to Conversion (P2C) report is one of those data tools, supplying even more insight into a user’s journey. When using Google Campaign Manager (CM360) as your ad server, P2C is a powerful tool to help marketers understand how users were exposed to your advertising in the lead-up to a conversion. 

Google's P2C report differs from other conversion reports in showing you not just the final conversion and the click or impression to which it's attributed, but the longer path of exposures that led to the conversion.

You can customize different data to pull in the report such as the channel mix, which shows the individual channels (for example, display or mobile) that were part of the conversion path, or media types, which shows the results of your ad assets and placements. You can also compare channels more effectively from an efficiency standpoint knowing attribution is being parsed out based on the user’s journey.

Using the Path to Conversion Report in CM360 is beneficial when all digital media is tagged through the ad server, as it will allow you to holistically see your full media ecosystem. Yes, that means it can span within and beyond Google to programmatic buys (regardless of DSP), YouTube, Search campaigns, as well as any direct IO buys purchased directly with partners  that accept 3rd party tags. 

If a brand is leveraging Google Analytics for web traffic analysis and to improve marketing ROI, P2C reports are also very beneficial in understanding how credit can be attributed. Based on a brand’s attribution model, the data visualization tool shows how much conversion credit each segment of the conversion path should receive from upper, to middle, to lower touchpoints. 

Let's See the Results

This eCommerce retailer has over 250 nationwide supermarket locations and a focus on unbeatable prices for their consumers in-store and online. They relaunched their loyalty app to drive loyalty card sign-ups with paid media support across Programmatic, Paid Social, and Paid Search. After the relaunch campaign, Rise used our upper-funnel conversion reporting tools to prove the value of our online  video, display, connected TV/OTT, and streaming audio ads. The results speak for themselves:

Users Exposed to Programmatic Ads

Video, Display, Connected TV (CTV), Audio


More Likely to Convert via Social


More Likely to Convert via Search

Users Exposed Specifically to CTV Ads


More Likely to Convert via Social


More Likely to Convert via Search

TAKEAWAY: Upper-funnel programmatic media such as Video, Display, CTV, and Audio is key to driving app enrollments and sign-ups, even if it isn't the user's last touch.

If there is one thing we’ve learned, it’s that it really is all about the data. You just need to know how to find enough of it to tell the full story. Interested in learning more about Rise’s data-driven approach? Contact us today!  

08/23/2023 at 04:25