Wednesday, February 10, 2010

You Can Address An Ad To Viewers, But You Can’t Make Them Watch

Media agencies can only do so much. After that, it becomes the responsibility of the creative.

Joe Marchese wrote a nice piece regarding this and the subject of engagement yesterday – All Advertising is Based on Engagement.

And while I usually find myself agreeing with most everything Joe says, I disagree with one point in his most recent post.

All advertising is based on engagement, wrote Joe. Couldn’t agree more. But then Joe went on to say that most media make money from advertising based on how good they are at transferring people’s engagement with content into engagement with advertising.

This is where Joe and I differ. I don’t believe that it is the job of the media, or the job of media agencies, to transfer a viewer’s engagement from say, programming content to commercial content.

That is the job of the commercial itself.

If people start watching the commercial and then stop five seconds in, who’s fault is this? The media agency's? The media’s? Or the creative itself?

In talking to media agencies, they have told me that once a viewer starts watching, their accountability is over. Their job, as they see it, is to bring the proverbial horse to water. If the horse decides to partake or not depends on many things. One being the quality of the water.

Water quality is not part of a media agency's job description.

I couldn’t agree more.

Joe says that according to Princeton’s WordNet, the verb engage is defined as “to consume all of one’s attention or time.” Certainly, that is the goal of any good advertising, especially a commercial. After all, why would a marketer create a 30-second spot if they only wanted the first five seconds watched?

Does this mean that engagement can’t be the new measurement metric? Not at all. Rather, what it means is that engagement is the responsibility of two different groups. The media agency for bringing people to the commercial. And, the creative agency for involving people in the commercial.

Engagement is a sum game. Equal parts exposure to and involvement in.

Only by separating the two responsibilities, and then holding each group accountable for what they do, and not for what they don’t, will engagement have a chance of joining reach and frequency as one of the metrics that matter.

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