All Advertising Is Based On Engagement
Engagement is not a new media buzzword. According to Princeton's WordNet, the verb engage is defined as "to consume all of one's attention or time." Isn't advertising's goal to engage people's attention with their product or service messages?
Like impressions, not all engagements are equal. There are two main factors: the medium's attributes (does it use sight, sound, motion, or some combination?) and the setting in which the medium is consumed (on the freeway, in your home, on your flat screen, in a bar).
A billboard's ability to engage one's attention is very different from radio's ability to do so. Television's engagement ability is perhaps the most powerful to date, using sight, sound and motion in a setting very conducive to "consuming all of one's attention or time": the home.
All advertising is based on engagement. Most media make money from advertising based on how good they are at transferring people's engagement with content into engagement with advertising. Magazine ads that complement an issue's content are a perfect example. On TV, the 30-second spot between program segments has long been an ideal mechanism for transferring people's attention from programmed content to advertisers'.
I don't think one can argue that all advertising is based on engagement with audience. If no one is paying attention, even peripherally, whom are you advertising to? So why does engagement sound like a dirty word when it is uttered in digital media? Digital can offer all of the necessary components of engagement that television offers (maybe not the huge flat-screen TV, but you are certainly sitting a lot closer to the screen more often).
And in addition to offering sight, sound and motion, digital offers an audience with the ability to interact -- and one ready to interact. What better measure of engagement could there be for advertisers? More than just a measure of engagement, the act of interacting provides a whole new level of engagement for advertisers and offers advertisers the ability to have a greater impact with each consumer engagement.
Television has offered the greatest scale and highest level of engagement for a very long time, and continues to offer many of the same benefits today. But once you agree that all advertising values engagement at one level or another, it's hard to deny digital's potential to give advertisers exactly what they have always been looking for: people's undivided and active attention, in a measurable way. What the industry needs to do is understand the relative value of various engagements through different media, because the truth is, one way is not necessarily better than other. A good media plan will blend traditional and digital engagements with advertising messages to achieve its goals.