Stop With the Engagement Already, It's About Receptivity

Scripps Networks Study: Industry Focused on Wrong Metric

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NEW YORK ( -- Engagement: It's everybody's favorite buzzword. But can networks control it? Scripps Networks is the latest to peel back the layers on engagement, contending that ad receptivity is really what gets viewers to buy the products advertised on TV and asking how one could know whether a program would have a high ad-receptivity ranking.
Scripps' DIY channel is the type of 'media environment that promotes an active frame of mind [that] has the top receptivity score,' or so says a Scripps-backed study.
Scripps' DIY channel is the type of 'media environment that promotes an active frame of mind [that] has the top receptivity score,' or so says a Scripps-backed study.

"Where the industry is stuck is they're confusing ad effectiveness and media engagement," said Mike Pardee, senior VP-research at Scripps Networks. Engagement, he says, is a factor of ad receptivity.

Delivering ad receptivity
"We say you can't discount creative, so unless you have good creative and the existing perception of the brand is reasonable, it's hard to come up with ad effectiveness. What we can deliver is ad receptivity -- you attract the right viewers and offer the right program environment. ... We asked, 'Are there things about media that predict, statistically, the advertising characteristics of a channel?'"

Believing there indeed were, Scripps took a look at what factors predict ad receptivity in a study conducted by Simmons Research. Scripps defines ad receptivity as a combination of four correlated statements: you pay attention to a channel; you are more inclined to buy products advertised on it; you glean valuable information; and you make shopping decisions at least in part based on the ads seen.

Then the study asked 2,100 adults to rate channels they watch on four factors -- favorite, enriching, useful and motivating -- and took a look at which most closely correlated to the ad-receptivity factors.

Quality of a 'favorite network'
The study found that whether a program was a "favorite network" mattered less than whether it was inspirational or provided helpful information. "A media environment that promotes an active frame of mind has the top receptivity score," said Mr. Pardee. Not surprisingly, perhaps, Scripps' DIY and HGTV ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively, followed by Style Network and then two more Scripps properties: Food Network and Fine Living. OLN (now Versus), Discovery Home, Travel Channel, Soapnet and WE rounded out the top 10. Ranking lowest were Comedy Central, Weather Channel, FX, Bravo and TV Land.

Of course, one potential criticism of the study is that it's based on self-reporting, counting on people's own responses to how they feel or what they do rather than actual observation of behavior. And there are contradictions galore in looking at several of the engagement studies so far -- IAG Research, for example, ranks product placement on Bravo as the most memorable, and the Weather Channel in its own study claimed a higher retention through commercial breaks and had superior recall. Plus, so far, the research doesn't isolate ad receptivity at a program level -- that's the next step, said Mr. Pardee.

Something they can influence
Incidentally, marketers are also looking at ad receptivity as something they can influence. At Ad Age's Media Mavens panel in Manhattan yesterday, Don Gloeckler, Procter & Gamble Co.'s North American manager of media research and 2006 Media Maven, said his company is looking strongly at ad receptivity because "I am less able to influence engagement than I am able to influence receptivity." Engagement, he contended, is an outcome of receptivity. He said P&G has been working hard to find what it calls "moments of me" where its potential customers are highly reachable.
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