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AD GROUPS BACK SWITCH FROM 'FREQUENCY' TO 'ENGAGEMENT'

Seek More Accurate Metric for Nontraditional Communications

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Amid growing skepticism about the effectiveness of traditional media advertising, a committee from three important industry organizations is pushing a new way to measure how consumers interact with ads.
Three top ad industry organizations are backing a new measurement system that reflects the widening range of devices used to consume media.
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A joint-task force composed of members of the Association of National Advertisers, American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Advertising Research Foundation yesterday unveiled an initiative that would shake up the classic equation of advertising math that determines consumer exposure to an ad. It would replace the concept of frequency -- the number of exposures to an ad -- with “engagement,” a metric that could better reflect the growing number of media choices facing consumers, from cell phones and the Internet to video games and podcasts.

Consumers control access
“There is so much media now that consumers control access,” said Robert DeSena, director of relationship marketing at Masterfoods USA. “It’s much more about finding a way to talk to them as individuals.”

The initiative, dubbed MI4, was rolled out at an ANA conference on marketing accountability that happened as the marketing world goes through a sea change wrought by the ever-growing list of new technologies that is changing on a daily basis how people consume media and, consequently, how they receive commercial messages. Against that backdrop, marketers are more often demanding ways to monitor return on their marketing investments.

In this year’s cable upfront, two networks, Court TV and the Weather Channel, struck deals that were based on viewer engagement and recall. At the ANA conference, Kate Sirkin, executive vice president and global research director at Starcom MediaVest Group, said partnerships with media sellers is vital. The adoption of engagement as a metric, she said, is “something that is going to be done as a partnership.”

A consensus on engagement
While the committee was united in backing the new metric, there was far from a consensus on what, exactly, engagement is. “The issue is whether we can agree on what engagement is, knowing that’s the hard part,” said Norman Lehoullier, managing director at Grey Interactive.

Said Mr. DeSena, “Engagement has a psychological component, but it will manifest behaviorally -- it will lead to an action.”

The committee’s initial tasks are to define engagement and propose a large-scale research effort to validate it as a planning, tracking and return on investment metric, said Joseph Plummer, chief research officer at the ARF.

Intention and action
A study unveiled at the conference highlighted the gap between intention and action when it comes to determining ROI. A study conducted by Marketing Management Analytics, the ANA, and Forrester Research found that 60% of marketers polled said that defining, measuring and acting on ROI is important. But only about 20% were satisfied with their efforts to do so.

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