Scripps on Board With Engagement

Jan 23, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Scripps Networks is joining the list of networks willing to extend guarantees to its advertisers based not only on viewership but on measures of engagement and effectiveness as well.

The company has been doing research over the past few years that it said indicates that viewers of its networks-HGTV, Food Network, DIY, Fine Living and Great American Country-are more likely to buy a sponsor’s products than are viewers of most other networks, and this year it’s willing to put its money where its mouth is.

“I’m not going to say, ‘These things are really important but I’m not willing to stand behind it.’ I’m very much going to stand behind it,” said Steve Gigliotti, executive VP for ad sales and emerging networks.

Scripps will ask a premium price for its guaranteed engaged audience.

“I would say to an advertiser, if this is important to you, then that’s great. We’ll make that promise. But it has to be at a level of [cost per thousand] that’s above and beyond buying plain old eyeballs in the marketplace,” Mr. Gigliotti said. “That would be fair.”

Buyers said that Scripps has used past research to push for higher ad rates and that a guarantee would mark a change in the way it sells ads.

During last year’s upfront, with many advertisers openly questioning the effectiveness of television commercials, Court TV and The Weather Channel made deals with some agencies in which the networks guaranteed they would deliver not only ratings but also an engaged audience in return for higher spending levels, but not necessarily higher prices.

Each deal calls for different measures to determine the level of engagement, and at this point the agencies say they are satisfied that the networks have been delivering but are looking to improve the formulas they use to calculate engagement.

“I’m hearing more and more networks moving in that direction,” said Lyle Schwartz, director of research and marketplace analysis for Mediaedge:cia, one of the media agencies that made an engagement deal with Court TV.

Mr. Schwartz said he has worked with Scripps on designing the studies on which guarantees would be based. “We’re always interested in going beyond just a demographic rating, to really understand by whatever measurement we can get, the continuum between bringing your ad out there and generating sales,” he said.

But he questioned the notion of paying more for a guarantee. “I understand their position and that’s a traditional sales position,” he said. “And the buyers will have their traditional position on accurately valuing the inventory. All these other metrics are factored into how you value inventory on different stations and networks.”

Mr. Gigliotti noted that while advertisers are becoming more interested in engagement and effectiveness, metrics are hard to come by.

“There isn’t one service that you can buy that will get you to the answer. You can’t run your schedule through some software and find out that you engaged and had an ad effectiveness of a certain point level,” he said.

The Four E’s

Scripps has what it calls the “four E’s” of engagement: efficiency in hitting targets, environment, exposure to the ads and effectiveness in getting people to act on the message.

Mr. Gigliotti asserted that some networks claim simple measures such as ad retention through breaks and time spent viewing provide an answer.

“I get concerned that some folks have jumped on to the bandwagon and said, ‘Retention through the breaks, that’s the answer,'” he said. “It’s an essential part of the process, but not the only part.”

Scripps’ research department, led by Mike Pardee, senior VP of research, has been studying engagement and effectiveness for six years. For three years, in studies conducted by Simmons Market Research, the Scripps networks have consistently come out near the top in most of the key measures.

“Will I guarantee we’ll be at the top of the pile next year? Yes,” Mr. Gigliotti said. “We’d have to agree with an advertiser what the appropriate attributes were for that advertiser, and then agree that this network would still remain in the top category.”

Scripps last week began presenting its 2006 research to ad buyers. The Simmons study of 2,094 adults 18 to 54 looks at 41 networks and ranks them on 15 attributes.

The company is looking to supplement that research, which involves questionnaires, with behavioral research looking at ad recall and purchase behavior. The research will be the centerpiece of Scripps’ upfront presentations and the basis for its discussion of guarantees.

“As we go through this upfront, this is the platform that we’re going to bring to the marketplace, because it’s the right time for this and we’re the right set of networks for this,” Mr. Gigliotti said.