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If your measurement tools are free, your budget is the product

Written by Lucia Rodriguez Elias

Marketers typically rely on free marketing tools like Google Analytics to monitor campaign spending and report success. It’s not immediately obvious how these services are profitable. Many users claim that the business model is simple and does not necessarily benefit end users. To put it bluntly, they use client data as the product and exaggerate their results somewhat in an attempt to encourage you to spend more of your marketing budget.

What’s behind the free marketing tools?

Marketers have long noted that these tools invariably seem to push spend towards their own ecosystem. On Google Analytics for example, it isn’t easy to see the contributions of each channel, campaign and touchpoint, as the tool instead uses last-click attribution. This doesn’t necessarily reflect the real value of each channel. For example, the effect of traditional advertising campaigns cannot be seen in last-click attribution.

Companies like Google are incentivised to portray their performance in the best possible light to maximise client spending on their advertising platform. Supposedly, ‘free’ tools often work this way; instead of charging clients directly, they create revenue by funnelling ad spending towards affiliated products. This mimics the functioning of other free tools like Gmail, which use client data to target ads more effectively.

It’s not just Google – Meta is another example of a company that provides both an ads platform and reporting tools. These tools are genuinely helpful but it’s vital to remain slightly suspicious of their motives. Do not be surprised when a particular channel exaggerates its own performance.

Adopting a holistic approach

The best solution is to analyse your own performance in-house. That doesn’t mean not using tools of Google and Meta, but it does require taking their results with a pinch of salt. See the performance of your campaigns holistically: verify channel results using a more comprehensive range of platforms, and let the numbers speak for themselves. Make sure you can see each channel’s contribution to overall performance, which may be obscured by last-click attribution.


Remembering to focus on the overall picture, including all channels, is difficult when your tools push you in one direction. Simply being aware of this can help; comparing the results of several different tools will give you a broader understanding. Above all, remember – if something seems to be free, your data is the product!

MediaGroup Worldwide takes a holistic approach to data measurement, ensuring accuracy and redundancy of reporting information. We identify the data that truly matters through our in-depth in-house research, using a mix of measurement techniques to help our clients drive continuous improvement. If you have any questions about measuring campaign success, contact us

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Lucia Rodriguez Elias

Head of Measurement

Lucia heads up the Measurement department at MediaGroup. Previously, Lucia worked at our agency as a Display Specialist, managing various programmatic and display campaigns for our clients, always showing a great passion for data and analytical approaches. She also sharpened her analytical skills while working as a Senior Marketing Analyst at a technology corporation. Lucia holds an Industrial Engineering degree from the Argentine University of Enterprise.

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