Click/ Counterclick: Marketing in The Age of Engagement

CLICK by Jason Heller

Our last column focused on the blurring line between media and marketing, which is a major shift resulting from this being the age of engagement. But, one must ask, what is engagement? Why is it so important? How do we achieve it?

Engage (v) -"to carry out or participate in an activity; to be involved in"...

If you asked 20 marketers the definition of engagement, you'd get 20 different answers. The catch is--chances are, they would all be right. Engagement encompasses something different for different marketers. It can range from watching a video clip to playing a game, filling out a form, or even reading more information about a product. Of course, response and sales conversion can also be part of the engagement equation. But depending on your objectives, these metrics may not be the key indicators of success, nor the basis of comparison of one site's performance versus another.

So why does engagement matter so much?



Digital media has brought marketers closer to their consumers than ever before. Consumers are being bombarded by increased quantities of marketing messages daily. Engagement is the new call to action, the digital equivalent of making a captive emotional connection. Engagement is becoming the difference between really successful digital marketing campaigns and the rest of the pack.

Engaging consumers means providing them with experiences of varying levels. Therefore the methods of determining campaign performance and evaluating the value of various levels of engagement is not as straightforward as that of other performance metrics.

Everyone talks about engagement and interactivity, but many still focus on gross impressions and click rate as tangible surrogates. Even some of the standard metrics provided by the ad servers and rich media technologies are a little misleading. "Ad duration" for example, is more of a function of how interesting the page content is and how long consumers remain on the page, as opposed to how long they are staring googly-eyed at your ad. Therefore, although arguably indicating a longer "opportunity-to-see," it is almost irrelevant, at least on its own. A measurement plan should be established early in the campaign planning process to define the metrics that will indicate success, and to establish a process of acquiring these metrics if not standard.

Today's rich media creative executions offer multiple opportunities for engagement. An ad unit with multiple components presents a less straightforward evaluation process and requires weighted performance metrics. Each interactive function can be weighted and scored, and a hybrid engagement score or index can be used to compare levels of engagement across a campaign. Marketers should also set out to measure the correlation between specific behaviors and the propensity for these engaged consumers to create increased value. This can be accomplished in many different ways, including the evaluation of proxy metrics such as lifts in awareness and purchase intent as a result of increased engagement. Over time, the cumulative learning generated from this type of systematic testing results in a refined engagement strategy.

Publishers are also doing their part to help provide additional engaging opportunities for clients. Content integration and innovative units and formats are in high demand among top-tier advertisers looking to make an impact. Unfortunately, not all publishers are in the position to be able to offer these types of opportunities. But most importantly, if you're truly looking to use engagement as a means of influencing consumers, take a step back and make sure that you have a measurement plan in place to help provide insight on the effectiveness of your efforts, so that you're not scratching your head after the fact.

And remember--engagement all starts with some great creative ideas. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't force him to interact with your boring ad!

Counter CLICK by Paul DeBraccio

"Engagement matters, but how can we buy, sell and track branding against it?"

Undoubtedly consumer engagement with ads is the holy grail of the ad industry for marketers and publishers alike.

Being a real old-timer, I remember various attempts through the years to measure engagement with ads. When 800 numbers came on the scene, we all thought they would help us track engagement of magazine, radio and TV ads. They did not.

There was a test program called CUBE TV in the early days of cable that attempted to gauge consumer involvement by allowing customers to respond to ads via buttons, etc. This failed, although we all thought cable TV would be able to give us that measurement because of its "vertical cable casting" capabilities. It did not.

In the early days of the Internet, we all thought that CTRs, and then animation and then video and mouseovers, would provide us with engagement data and they did, to some extent. But until Dynamic Logic and other expensive studies came on the scene, we could not track much more than broad actions. Even with DL, the results are not broad enough to become the de facto standard.

Not to be an old curmudgeon (even though if the shoe fits.....) but I think we are years away from developing a standard of measuring audience engagement. It will take a lot of different organizations to agree on standards, which will not be workable until they can be used across all media.

God know we still have not found a way to measure online GRPs in a manner compatible to traditional media GRPs!

(Disclaimer: Jason forced me to write a few lines on this topic!)

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