Commentary

Building The Orchestra And Conducting The Symphony

In 2014, the IAB released a whitepaper entitled “Defining and Measuring Digital Ad Engagement in a Cross-Platform World.”  The paper was published under the auspices of the cross-ecosystem initiative Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS) and developed by a group of agency and publishing executives, with review by marketing executives.  

3MS has become almost synonymous with viewability.  That notion is incorrect.  3MS is, in fact, more than just viewability.  It is a robust program that advocates for digital media measurement transformation and proposes solutions.  The premise of 3MS is that for brand advertising, all media should be measured using comparable metrics — and where needed, consistent, transparent standards be developed to measure what is unique to digital.

As the viewability standard was developed and viewability implementation moved forward, 3MS leadership also sought to further the cause of the rest of the measurement agenda.  To identify constructs that describe what is unique to interactive advertising for building brands, the first step was to define advertising engagement in a digital world.  Digital brand ad engagement does not occur in isolation: brand advertising engagement is not a single event, but one that traverses screens, platforms and beyond.

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The 2014 3MS whitepaper defines engagement as “a spectrum of consumer advertising and experiences — cognitive, emotional and physical — that will have a positive impact on a brand.”   Moreover, the three components can and do link with each other at various points in the continuum and in slightly different configurations.

Defining engagement in this manner provides a conceptual framework for identifying and defining digital ad engagement metrics.  The paper did that.  It proposed 30 metrics — out of potentially hundreds or perhaps thousands — as the core engagement metrics.  These 30 metrics are put forth for further industry review and then standardization.  There are seven cognitive core metrics, all measurable using surveys; four emotional metrics, with physiological responses measurable using biometrics and the rest via surveys; and 19 behavioral/physical metrics that can be measured today through eye-tracking and various types of analytics.

The 3MS whitepaper covers soft and hard metrics associated with advertising effectiveness and successfully connects dots among some common behavioral and social analytics, biometrics, and well-known ad-effectiveness metrics.  This is much like assembling the instruments and the players for the orchestra.  The metrics still need standards.  And, importantly, the data sources need to be integrated wisely to create the harmonies.  Composing the harmonies requires a blend of the science of data and traditional research with the art of telling the story the science indicates.  While the symphony has yet to be written, there seems to be no discord around the definition of engagement, nor the proposed core metrics. What we need now is rapid rhythms and pace to get to the completed symphony.

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