Below is a short excerpt from my interview with Mike. Direct links to the four interview videos can be found at http://weislermedia.blogspot.com/2010/01/q-interview-with-mike-pardee-svp.html
Charlene Weisler: If you had to list the top issues that you are facing at this moment, what would they be?
Mike Pardee: I think one that is on the top of my list is the concept of viewer engagement and how that translates into advertising impact. We have been going down this path at least since the C3 issue raised its head. In the last two or three years, it seems to have become less of a topic of conversation. And yet I was at a conference recently and the words "engagement" and "engagement with consumers" came up inevitably in every second speech. But there really doesn't seem to be a lot of research in this area, and I think it has a lot of application, particularly for our type of network that is very directed and focused.
CW: So in terms of engagement research, what have you been doing to prove the value of your networks' engagement index among consumers?
MP: Well we've been working with the Simmons MME: that's the primary way we have been doing it. Also online there are a number of measures -- not just page views, but time spent and visits, so forth. So we have been looking at least at both behavioral and attitudinal engagement.
CW: Have you been finding that agencies are responsive to this type of research?
MP: I think in a general sense they are. Each upfront we go out with an engagement story and it seems to get a good reception. But, it's sort of a play on words and I don't find them getting as engaged with engagement as they did maybe three or four years ago.
CW: Do you think maybe it's still engagement, but it is called something else. Like ROI?
MP: I think you probably put your finger on it. I think that there is so much focus on the return on investment. We have done several projects recently where we've looked to see if the needle has moved at all in terms of product purchase.
That is a really hard thing to do. It takes massive sales and ad budgets to move the needle, and you have to place it pretty much on one network or on one Web site to really isolate it. But there is a lot of interest in that. We've done some clever projects with clients on that.
Another thing that has turned out to be kind of interesting is looking at search and using search as an indirect measure of impact to see whether a campaign generates spikes in search. We've also been doing that.
CW: In talking about set-top-box data, Scripps was one of the networks early on to start to look into it. What do you see as the future of set-top-box data?
MP: It's really hard to know what is going to happen with set-top-box data right now. Obviously the access to the data needs to open up. There are a number of vendors who seem capable of processing it and putting out decent reports. We've looked at a couple of them and subscribe to one of them right now. But it's going to take a lot more if it's going to become a mainstream currency. We find it very useful, particularly for looking at the ad breaks and what happens during the ad breaks -- but we've turned some of our attention elsewhere, because we could only take it so far without having a larger universe of information.
CW: What are the challenges that set-top-box data needs to overcome in order for you to feel that it is on the road to becoming a standardized metric?
MP: Well, there is the quantity issue. Early on it became clear to us that there needs to be several millions of set top boxes for it to have the kind of statistical stability for second-by-second analysis. And I think the issue of not having demographics is a serious one. Some sort of integration of set tops with panel data probably is essential if it is going to become currency. Right now that mechanism doesn't exist.