That said, there is an awful lot of discussion currently taking place that says that the initial point of advertising is this thing called engagement. After all, it's difficult to persuade someone to buy your product if you first don't engage them in a conversation about the product.
If engagement is the goal, then the current methods of measuring and monetizing clicks and impressions seem to fall short. What's missing?
I would argue that it's the time component.
Engagement, after all, has a time element to it. A thirty-second spot offers the viewer the opportunity to engage for thirty seconds. A sixty-second spot offers sixty seconds in which to engage.
Neither a click nor an impression is based on any aspect of time spent with the commercial.
What does give an accurate measurement of time spent with the commercial is second-by-second data. And yet, this is often swept aside as a non-viable measurement metric. Not because it doesn't make sense. But because media platforms and media agencies aren't sure how to turn it into a measurement of media.
The fact is, they can't. Because it's not.
Time-spent is a measurement of the quality of the creative. Not the quality of the media buy or the media platform on which it runs. Once the viewer initiates the interaction with the commercial, then the amount of time spent with that commercial is strictly a reflection of the creative.
No doubt part of the problem is in the vague and often disparate definitions that we have of engagement. I've always thought of engagement as being a three-step process.
Engagement = Impressions + Initiation + Involvement
What's interesting about this definition is that it allows advertisers to hold different parties accountable for different aspects of engagement, while at the same time, not making any one party solely accountable for the whole of engagement.
Impressions are the responsibility of the media agency. As well as making sure that those impressions are as relevant as possible.
Giving the viewer the ability to initiate the interaction with the commercial—and to be able to leave the commercial when it no longer interests them—is the responsibility of the platform on which the commercial runs. This could be the cable company, the online publisher, TiVo, whomever is the one that gives the viewer the control to watch what they want when they want.
Once the viewer initiates the interaction with commercial, accountability as to how long they're involved with the commercial falls under the aegis of the advertising agency that created the commercial.
A three-step process. Each step along the way allowing the transference of accountability to move from one party to the next.
Looking at engagement as a three-step process allows both impressions and clicks to offer value and accountability to the advertiser. But they are only two measurement metrics in what is a three-step process
What is missing is the metric for the third step—time-spent.
If the new purpose of advertising is engagement, then we need to start looking at it as a team effort, where each team is accountable for what they bring to the end result.
Only then will we be able to measure and monetize it accurately.