And while it's encouraging that everyone involved - the ANA, American Association of Advertising Agencies, Advertising Research Foundation - appears to be on board in backing engagement, there does seem to be a small hiccup in the process: Lack of agreement on what engagement actually means.
Perhaps the confusion lies not so much in the word itself, but in the fact that as a metric, it's being applied to the wrong discipline.
Engagement in an advertising message is not the responsibility of the programmer or the media. Programmers have no control over the advertising message itself. As such, they should not be held accountable for how engaging it is.
What programmers do have control over is creating great programming so as to draw as many eyeballs as possible to their program. Great programming content, not advertising content, is what programmers should be held accountable for.
Engagement in the advertising message itself is the responsibility of the agency that creates that message. This is what agencies should be held accountable for:
The emergence of digital interactive media allows exact measurement of both types of engagement. What advertisers should be demanding is an answer to is how to monetize these measurement capabilities. Only by offering the proper monetization models will the industry be able to allow the different disciplines to be held accountable for what they actually have control over.
Obviously, many agencies will balk at being held accountable for engagement. It is, after all, a results-based model. And for most agencies, it is far more lucrative to charge their clients for the possibility of success, than it is for the actuality of results.
Ironically, the next task for the ANA's task force is to define what engagement, the metric that everyone has already agreed to, actually means.
We already know what engagement means. The problem isn't the definition; it's in application.
Engagement is not a media metric. It is a metric that measures an agency's value. And, in turn, its worth.
By holding programmers accountable for engagement, the ANA and its partners are holding the wrong group responsible.