Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Why Engagement Isn't Only A Media Issue

Brilliant article written today by Cory Treffiletti called Engaging With Engagement. If you haven’t read it yet, do so now.

Cory’s premise is that we need to define engagement. I doubt anyone will argue with that. In Cory’s definition, engagement solely describes the media vehicle, not the advertising itself.

I think Cory’s article is brilliant because what he has done has reinforced the largest problem facing the digital marketplace – that of trying to define engagement as the responsibility of only one party.

While Cory makes a very cogent argument for engagement being something that media delivers, I’m of the belief that engagement doesn’t reside in media at all.

Engagement resides in the user of the media. Not in the media itself.

In fact, engagement is not something that advertising or media can even deliver. Rather, engagement is something that the viewer brings to the advertising. All the players involved—media, platform, and the creative itself—just facilitate the opportunity for engagement to occur.

Or, not to occur.

I was sitting with a friend from P&G last week, talking about this very topic. In the course of the conversation, he came up with a very interesting phrase – Engagement Per Opportunity – or EPO.

As we continued the discussion, we realized that the opportunity in which engagement can occur has three very distinct architects, each architect building in a different element to the engagement opportunity.

The first architect is the program/publisher which delivers the audience that has the chance to engage. Without an audience, engagement cannot occur. After all, the audience is who is actually bringing the engagement. Whether they decide to share it with a commercial message or not, is up to them.

The second architect is the digital platform which gives viewers the control to initiate, or give some of their engagement to a message, if they so desire.

The third architect, the creative itself, determines how long an engagement lasts, once engagement has been given by the viewer to the message.

Three very different activities – exposure to, initiation with, and involvement in.

Each able to be measured separately. Which means each architect can be held accountable for their part in creating the opportunity.

We’re already measuring how well the media did its part through viewership data. We’re already measuring how well the platform did its part through click-through data. And we have just recently started measuring how well the creative did its part through time-spent data.

Breaking engagement down to its component architects simply allows marketers to hold the right party responsible for their part in building the EPO.

In other words, engagement is really nothing more than a metric of accountability.

Times three.

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