Definition Near for ‘Engagement’

Mar 20, 2006  •  Post A Comment

“Engagement” has been one of the hot buzzwords in the advertising business of late. This week, the industry will actually have a precise definition of the term.

That definition, described as a single medium-size sentence, will be revealed Tuesday at the Advertising Research Foundation’s annual convention in New York by a committee that has labored over it for more than a year.

Traditionally, advertising’s value has been gauged based on its exposure. Now the industry wants to see how consumers react to marketing messages-in other words, whether they are engaged by those messages.

“The definition is going to be driven more from the vantage point of the consumer and the advertiser rather than the vantage point of the media,” said Joseph Plummer, chief research officer of the ARF.

After defining “engagement,” the next trick will be to measure it. To some degree, the appeal of an idea and the way it is delivered still must be measured separately, but Mr. Plummer said the ARF will encourage research that looks at the way they interact. “Having a big audience or being engaged in the media won’t help a bad idea,” he said.

“The definition itself doesn’t discuss measurement, but measurement will fall in two parts,” said Kate Sirkin, senior VP and global director of strategic alliances for Starcom MediaVest Group and a member of the committee. “One will be the message and one will be the environment. It fits with a lot of the work we’ve been doing for individual clients.”

The new definition won’t change the way Starcom does business, she said. “The deals that have been done with the broadcasters are about the things that they can control. The definition that’s been agreed in the industry is more about understanding how it works than negotiating a guarantee. Two different purposes require different metrics and different definitions.”

Basics Unchanged

Mr. Plummer said that while there will be experimentation with new forms of measurement, “Basic things like 14 million in the audience, cost per thousand, that’s not going to go away.”

Meanwhile, at its National Client Meeting in Orlando, Fla., last Tuesday, Nielsen Media Research said it plans to go beyond audience measurement and look for metrics for viewer engagement with television programs and commercials.

Nielsen said it will ask viewers in People Meter households at the end of their two-month stretch to stay on for an extra month to participate in its engagement project. During that month those viewers will not be in the ratings sample but will participate in phone surveys to determine the connection between what they watch and their recall, awareness and attitudes toward the brands and products advertised.