Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Impressions + Initiation + Involvement = Engagment?

As you are probably well aware, there is an interesting battle raging for the best way to define engagement. Not surprisingly, the battle is heated, if for no other reason then that there is a fear that the result will lead to some making billions and others not.

After all, the way that engagement is defined will determine the way that engagement will be measured. And obviously, the one that gets to measure engagement gets to monetize it.

Hence, the battle.

What’s curious to me is how everyone seems to think that the introduction of engagement as a metric means the devaluing of some other metrics of measurement, i.e. impressions, clicks, etc.

But what if that isn’t the case? What if this mysterious metric of engagement is additive rather than subtractive? What if it’s a combination of things that advertisers are already paying for?

What if it can be defined in a way so that no one loses money?

What if it’s this: Impressions + Initiation + Involvement = Engagement.

Let’s see what this really means. An impression means that someone has been exposed to the message. As far as I can tell, one can’t engage with a message if they aren’t first exposed to it. So it seems fairly safe to say that some sort of exposure is a necessary first step to engagement.

If that’s the case, then media agencies, the current brokers of impressions and/or exposures are still in business.

Advertisers will still need media agencies to pay publishers and/or ad networks for aggregating as many relevant viewers as possible and giving them the opportunity to be exposed to the message.

So, no money lost there.

Let’s move on to initiation. Another word that could be substituted here is interaction. Whichever is preferred, initiation or interaction, it has to refer to an action that is driven by the viewer. If engagement is to be measured accurately, the user’s intent and action needs to be measured explicitly.

An impression offers implicit intent. Unfortunately, that's not good enough. But by having the user initiate the interaction with the message, their intent becomes explicit. Once a viewer clicks-in, there is a definitive start point to engagement.

Those responsible for allowing viewers to initiate the play of a video asset are the different video players now populating the web, as well as different video technology companies like VideoEgg.

Should they be paid for offering advertisers the ability to measure when engagement starts (and stops, for that matter)? You would think so, wouldn’t you? After all, if engagement doesn’t start, then it really hasn’t happened, has it?

But what if the viewer clicks-in and clicks-out immediately? In other words, stays for only a second. Is this still considered engagement?

Well, yes. But it’s a really short engagement. Especially if the spot they clicked out of was sixty or more seconds long. Which is why involvement, or time-spent with the message, seems like the third leg of this three-legged engagement stool.

One could almost say that time-spent is a measure of the quality of engagement.

Interestingly enough, how involving a commercial turns out to be is the responsibility of the creative agency. Should a creative agency be paid more if they create more involvement rather than less?

There are those that would argue, yes. And, for good reason. Since there are no time restraints on user-initiated messaging, a commercial should be as long as it takes to communicate the message. Which means, if not watched to completion, then the message obviously wasn’t communicated.

If agencies do their job well, they should be paid well. If not, no. By measuring time-spent with the commercial message, advertisers will have an accurate measure as to how well their agencies are doing their jobs.

What this all means is that instead of someone losing money, everyone still makes money. Presuming, of course, they are good at what they do.

But are all three parts really necessary? Perhaps the best way to find out is to ask yourself if engagement would still occur if you took one of the elements away.

It wouldn't, would it?

Of course, some will insist on arguing that what is missing is a click for more information or, to buy. But, isn't it true that one could be engaged in a message and not want to buy right at that moment?

Some, in fact, say that’s the definition of branding.

But, let's not go there.

Arguing about one definition is enough for one day.

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