|No Guarantees When It Comes to Ad Impact|
New research from Omnicom Group's OMD may move the seemingly fuzzy concept of engagement beyond the realm of academic debate by proving it really does move sales. The study could bolster advertising by better reflecting its contributions to sales growth, and the fledgling science of engagement measurement, which now has some tangible evidence of its worth.
Completed by OMD and presented to an Advertising Research Federation forum late last month, the research indicates that not only does consumer engagement with media and advertising drive sales, but it also can drive sales more than media spending levels. That suggests even a relatively small media outlay could work wonders should the ads draw keen attention from consumers within media they also find engaging, said Mike Hess, director of global research and consumer insights for OMD.
Further research necessary
The research, conducted by Sandra Eubanks, U.S. director of research for OMD, and Huw Griffiths, U.S. director of metrics and brand science, covered only three financial-services brands. They and Mr. Hess cautioned that broader research is needed to prove the link between engagement and sales or to determine how much media weight, media engagement and advertising engagement each affect sales generally.
But for the brands studied, which weren't disclosed, figuring engagement into the picture increased measurable advertising return on investment 15% to 20% over models that only factor in Nielsen Media Research's gross ratings points.
OMD used its proprietary engagement measure, an index that factors in such things as how often people say they watch a show, to measure media engagement. The agency used copy-test results measuring primarily how much people like ads to measure advertising engagement.
They mashed those numbers with the one discipline that's been a hotter research commodity than engagement tracking -- marketing-mix modeling -- to analyze how much engagement with programming and with ads themselves drive sales.
The results appear to validate the usefulness of OMD's media-engagement measure, not exactly a disinterested finding, Mr. Hess conceded. But the study also found that ad engagement -- using copy-test measures in which OMD has no stake -- had an even bigger impact than the media engagement.
The research appears to validate what copy-testers have been saying all along -- that its copy-test measures really can predict ROI from an ad, Mr. Hess said.
For the three brands tested, consumer engagement with media had three times the impact on sales media weight (GRPs) alone did, and that consumer engagement with the ads had an eight-times larger impact on sales than GRPs. One result was to make the marketing-mix model more accurate, Ms. Eubanks and Mr. Griffiths wrote in their report.
Engagement creates sales
The results "clearly confirm the basic premise that media engagement drives sales," the OMD team wrote. "Marketers have often felt that mix models understate the true impact of ROI and advertising. The addition of engagement metrics would help to minimize this effect. ... Increased ROI [shown by adding engagement to the mix] could drive higher levels of investment in advertising vs. other marketing activities."
But Gregg Ambach, VP-analytics services of ImmediateFX, a marketing analytics firm, cautioned that engagement can't be separated from media weight, "because you can't have one without the other."