Time to Disengage from Engagement
It was clear from the panel on engagement metrics at the Mediapost Forecast 2007 conference that the industry's attempts to use "consumer engagement" as a tool have gotten ahead of the Advertising Research Foundation's process of defining and codifying the concept.
The panel was billed as a debate, and it delivered. Representing the media buying community were the well-known and always colorful Erwin Ephron, along with Dave Smith, president of Mediasmith. Representing the group championing and developing the concept were Joe Plummer Chief Research Officer of the ARF and Bob DeSena Director of Active Engagement at Mediaedge:cia.
The debate boiled down to this: the media buyers want to operationalize the engagement concept with the kinds of specific metrics and processes that have guided the reach/frequency/GRP model of ad buying. But the initiative was only announced last July and the work is ongoing.
Dave Smith noted that every presentation by media companies includes a pitch that their property is more "engaging" than others while media research companies like Simmons are pitching engagement metrics that don't fit into the current process. To top it off, Dave noted pressure from clients asking what his company is doing about engagement.
It is to these media sellers, researchers and clients that my title is directed: they should disengage the hype machines.
Joe Plummer readily admitted "we have a long way to go and we need to hurry up" and noted that there are five research initiatives in process to explore and validate different approaches that could be taken. Joe continued, "We are changing the way the industry thinks about advertising about advertising from one mental model to another. There is a lot of trial and error to evaluate the role of ideas like Net Promoter, co-creation of meaning and others."
This kind of change takes time, experimentation, and a lot of creative thought. Everyone should engage in the process to get the best thinking and ideas into the mix to be tested and validated.