Nigel Hollis of Millward Brown: Engaged By Engagement
Nigel Hollis from Millward Brown contributes his point of view on engagement:
I’m on the road for three weeks, keeping busy with various speaking commitments and client meetings, and so, much to my regret, I will miss next week’s Consumer Engagement Conference hosted by AAAA and ARF. Coming across this blog, Engagement by Engagement, reminded me of the conference, and got me thinking once again on the topic of engagement.
Why should we care about engagement? The simple answer is that engagement is the key to successful communication. Engagement determines whether or not a brand idea will make its way from the screen, loudspeaker or page into someone’s brain. But engagement alone does not make advertising successful. The idea conveyed by an ad must be assimilated into a person’s set of existing mental brand associations, and must increase the desirability of the brand.
So engagement is a necessary precursor to advertising success—a bridge between the advertising medium and the human mind. That bridge is complex and multi-faceted. At least three types of engagement work together to determine whether an idea successfully crosses the bridge.
“Engagement not interruption!” cry the ad agencies, completely ignoring the fact that people have always dismissed trivial, irrelevant and boring creative, just as they fail to engage with any other activity that possesses those characteristics. People will continue to engage with creative ads that they find enjoyable, interesting and relevant.
Much of the recent debate has focused on media engagement. The underlying assumption seems to be that the strong engagement with content on a media channel will lead to strong engagement with an ad carried by that channel.
I think that this assumption is flawed. In the early days of online ad testing, our data clearly demonstrated a negative relationship between ad recognition and how interested people claimed to be in the page that carried the ad. In other words, the more interested people were in the content, the less likely they were to notice and remember the ads positioned around it. Luckily we also found that good creative could overcome this dampening effect. More recent work by Dynamic Logic and Millward Brown supports the fact that creative engagement tends to dominate content engagement.
The jury is out on whether the same finding would apply to other media. It seems likely that the relationship between content engagement and ad engagement may vary by medium.
Finally we turn to consumer engagement. The degree to which a person engages with an ad or medium will be subject to both the current mood and the prior experience of that individual. Mood may be created by engagement with the medium, but it can also be a separate predominant state. For instance, excitement – as a result of your football team winning an important game - may cause people to be distracted and less likely to attend to a medium or an ad. Familiarity with the brand and its advertising will determine how readily people engage with communication from that brand.
So when we discuss engagement, let’s not make assumptions. The role that the three different facets play could vary dramatically across media channels.