Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Engagement vs. Environment

A study was recently conducted by VideoEgg and comScore among 14,000 Web users to determine the effectiveness of banner ads with video versus banner ads without video.

The study also looked to see what affect site environment, or contextual relevance, played in how well ads performed.

Not surprising, video ads proved to be more engaging than non-video ads. Also not surprising, the more engaging the ad, the better the ad performed in terms of aided and unaided awareness.
What was surprising was to find out how little impact the environment in which the ads ran had on performance.

At least according to VideoEgg’s president, Troy Young.

Now keep in mind that VideoEgg commissioned the study. And, of course, the results back up what they’re selling – an expandable ad unit that takes over a portion of the Web page, so it’s almost impossible to ignore.

That’s how VideoEgg “engages” people – through an expanding ad unit.

If you click on the unit to watch the video, VideoEgg says that you’ve "engaged". That’s how they define engagement. Whether the viewer stops watching after 3 seconds or after 30 seconds, the engagement rating stays the same.

If I were an advertiser, I’d say those two engagement levels are very different.

It’s difficult talking about things like “engagement” when everybody has different definitions of what “engagement” actually is.

Some people refer to “engagement” as having clicked in to start the video. Others say engagement ties into time spent with the video itself.

Those are two very different things.

Just engaging with the ad format, i.e. clicking on the ad to start the video, is of little value to an advertiser if the viewer doesn’t hang around to watch the ad.

Engaging with the message of the ad is very different than engaging with the ad format to start it.

I don’t know if the VideoEgg/comScore study had any results that linked length of view with performance. But common sense seems to indicate that the longer people are engaged with the ad’s message, the better the chances are that some sort of persuasion will actually occur.

VideoEgg doesn’t sell persuasion. After all, they sell ad formats, not ad creative.

That’s why they define engagement as clicking-in and not length of view.

Length of view is the responsibility of the creative agency. Not the media agency.

To me, engagement is a sum game. The formula looks something like this.

Initiation + Involvement = Engagement

Advertisers need to start holding media and platforms responsible for the “initiation” aspect, i.e. how many click in.

But once that happens, then responsibility for how long viewers stay engaged with the ad – involvement - falls on the shoulders of the creative agency.

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