How to Measure Who Paid Attention to Ads

ARF to Lay Out a Framework for Engagement Metric This Month

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NEW YORK ( -- Moving the industry from a metric that measures how many people could have seen an ad to how many people actually paid attention to an ad is not something that will happen in time for this year's TV upfront market.

Photo: Gerardo Mora
Joe Plummer, ARF's chief research officer, said 'I'm enough of an optimist to believe it's possible.'
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But the Advertising Research Foundation's initiative to focus the measurement of advertising's effectiveness on engagement will heat up later this month at the organization's annual conference.

A clearer framework
The industry's research group will lay out a clearer framework of the definition of engagement, discussing different scientific understandings of engagement as well as some validation projects ARF is looking to perform, according to Joe Plummer, ARF's chief research officer.

ARF, which is working with the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies, announced the effort last summer.

Understanding how viewers interact
The advertising groups want to get beyond simply measuring the number of eyeballs that see an ad and understand how viewers are actually interacting with it. At this point, it's unclear whether ARF will come to settle on a single definition of engagement.

"I'm enough of an optimist to believe it's possible," Mr. Plummer said.

One thing engagement won't be is a substitute for frequency in the classic gross ratings points, or GRP, formula. That's a method the ARF said it was backing away from during a session at the 4As media conference in Orlando, Fla., last week. "We're not sure about engagement as a currency," Mr. Plummer said in an interview.

Mr. Plummer presented a new, more complicated equation that looks at things like brand, media and trust.

Benefits for smaller media
While mass media could have much to lose, the adoption of engagement could be a boon to media with smaller audiences that nonetheless enjoy high levels of involvement from consumers. It's too early to tell how media sellers and buyers will react to the engagement initiative, but there are some indications that it's piquing their interest. For instance, at the Orlando conference, the Magazine Publishers of America distributed a 40-page booklet touting the performance of magazines in measures of trust and involvement.

The ARF conference takes place March 20-22 in New York.

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