Engagement Good as Gold

Jan 9, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The networks that guaranteed commercials on their channels would not only reach viewers but also engage them have so far been as good as their word.

Engagement became a mantra in the ad business last year as marketers sought to know that the billions they were spending on TV were actually increasing sales. Court TV and The Weather Channel made guarantees based on engagement as part of their upfront deals. With one-quarter of the broadcast season now in the books, those networks say they haven’t had to provide extra make-goods for falling short of the new targets.

As part of its deal with The Weather Channel, MediaVest, whose clients include giants Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola, conducted research with the network and recently got results of a study designed to determine whether deeper viewer involvement in a TV program translates into higher recall of ads in those shows. “What we found is that is the fact,” said Jim Kite, executive VP of research, insight and accountability for MediaVest.

The MediaVest-Weather Channel study placed spots for five of its clients on four channels: The Weather Channel, Fox News Channel, USA Network and Food Network and asked regular viewers of those networks to tune in at specific times, then surveyed the viewers on their recall of those commercial messages.

“What we found was that purposeful viewing and program relevance does lead to increased engagement to advertising,” Mr. Kite said. Viewers surveyed said The Weather Channel provided useful information, information they trusted and that time spent there was well spent. “Because they go to that channel for a reason, advertising recall improves,” he said.

“We guaranteed that our results would be as good if not better than the average television network,” said Paul Iaffaldano, executive VP and general manager of the Weather Channel’s media solutions unit. “We’ve accomplished that.”

The Weather Channel has long claimed that because viewers tune in for specific information that affects their lives, it’s viewed differently from other networks. According to the study, 98 percent of the channel’s viewers watched with a purpose, compared with 82 percent for the other networks, making it a more effective place to advertise.

Court TV made deals with four agencies: Starcom, Carat, Mediaedge:cia and Magna Global. Each deal is based on a different set of metrics, but Charlie Collier, executive VP and general manager of ad sales for Court TV, said, “We have run numbers through our shared models with each of the agencies and are pacing ahead of guaranteed delivery of our involved audiences.”

Court TV contends that its investigative genre holds viewers through the end of its shows, making it more likely that viewers see commercials. The network is working with the agencies to determine the best ways to measure TV involvement and ad effectiveness and will conduct proprietary studies for each agency.

“It is not something where you will get a final result and the deal is over,” he said. “We’re reaching viewers in a meaningful way and looking at how effective our media is, and that’s here to stay.”

Rino Scanzoni, chief investment officer of Mediaedge:cia, said, “I think Court TV has been kind of a pioneer in this area. Eventually, people are going to look to find other ways to measure value that go beyond just ratings delivery,” he said.

Mr. Scanzoni said his agency is still getting data for the fourth quarter, which involves checking the differences between program ratings and commercial ratings.

So far, it appears that ads on Court TV are indeed “sticky,” said Mediaedge research directory Lyle Schwartz, meaning that viewers stay tuned through commercial breaks. He said he is working with the network to also measure attentiveness to commercial messages.

This area is important to advertisers and the media buyers who work for them.

“This research wasn’t done as a nice-to-note project,” Mr. Kite said. “MediaVest invested a lot of time and The Weather Channel invested a lot of money and time to do this research, so the findings are being looked at very closely.” He expects the repercussions from the study’s findings will be “pretty far-ranging” and will affect the 2006 upfront more than they affect the deals done during the 2005 upfront.

The Weather Channel naturally hopes the research will lead to higher spending from more clients, Mr. Iaffaldano said.

“We provided that guarantee because we knew it would be a bold way of standing behind our statements that we are better and different and it was done in the context of trying to gather some really cool information that helps MediaVest understand not only us but other networks and how consumers relate to those networks and the ads on those networks,” he said.

But he said The Weather Channel doesn’t necessarily want to get into the business of guaranteeing recall scores. Recall scores are just one step on the way to measuring advertising effectiveness.

“I see a day that not just us but all media is bought and sold not just on [cost per thousand] based on impression, but the quality of those impressions is also calculated into how much an advertiser is willing to pay,” he said. “With as much progress as the online industry has made in demonstrating [return on investment], demonstrating effectiveness in the advertising industry, television has fallen behind.”