Friday, May 08, 2009

VideoEgg Keeps Pushing The Egg Forward

Gotta love those guys and gals at VideoEgg. They’re all over this time spent thing.

AttentionRank is their newest offering. What it does is optimize ad placements on publishers' sites.

Here are a couple of VideoEgg’s findings in regards to users engaging with an ad.

More time on page is better than less time on page.

Bigger ads are better than smaller ads.

Above the fold is better than below the fold.

Uncluttered sites allow ads to be noticed better than cluttered sites.

All of these “findings” are pretty much common sense. Nothing especially earth shattering here.

(Interestingly enough, what VideoEgg has also discovered, and which is somewhat revealing, is that targeting has little to do with a user engaging with an ad. This is rather important with all the money being spent by people trying to “sell” behavioral and contextual targeting.)

VideoEgg goes on to explain that AttentionRank is not about creative, but about increasing performance by optimizing media placements. They also say that AttentionRank identifies where and when users are most receptive to a brand’s message and delivers ad impressions to maximize attention and/or engagement with that message.

All well and good. But a few things are still being left unsaid. And I think the confusion starts with the word “engagement.”

“Engagement” is a very misunderstood word if only for the fact that actual engagement is a sum game. Ever since engagement became the “buzz” word in the ad industry, everybody has been trying to claim that they’re the ones that deliver it best.

Sorry. But it doesn't work that way.

For example, VideoEgg claims they sell engagement. What they really are selling is the number of people who click on the ads they place. Because they don’t sell pre-roll or mid-roll, VideoEgg basically sells a cost-per-click model. Whether people watch all of the commercial, or ten percent of the commercial, the cost is the same to the advertiser.

To me, at least, that isn’t engagement.

I see commercial engagement as a three-part process:

Impressions + Viewer Initiation + Involvement.

The three parts must work in that order. The viewer must first be exposed to the commercial. Then the viewer must initiate the interaction with the commercial. And then, the viewer must become involved in the commercial.

Only then has engagement actually taken place.

VideoEgg is trying to make the second part—viewer initiation—work better. Kudos to them for that. And kudos to them for understanding the value in time spent with commercial messages.

After all, if branding is ever going to take off online, we need to remember that branding is about building relationships. And relationships are built on time spent together. That’s why time spent is the critical component to the online branding equation.

As I have stated in previous posts, it is my belief that we'll soon be discussing how share of time leads to share of market.

VideoEgg is right to say that impressions are insensitive to performance. But, that doesn’t make impressions unimportant. Impressions are necessary if only because viewers first need to be exposed in order to be able to initiated the interaction with the message.

I think that what VideoEgg is trying to imply is that impressions, by themselves, are not enough anymore to prove the value of an ad campaign. And, while that's true, they still play a vital role.

Media agencies are still responsible for delivering the best and most relevant impressions possible. Publishers are responsible for allowing viewers to opt-in to messages of interest. And, the creative agencies are responsible for involving the viewers in the message.

Once we can agree on the delineations of responsibility, then the publishers and agencies can get paid based on the value that they actually offer.

Coke, as we now all know, is pushing for value-based compensation models. But to do so, they first need to understand who is responsible for what when it comes to engagement.

Accountability is certainly possible. But only if agencies have control over what they are being held accountable for.

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