Thursday, November 30, 2006

Industry Confuses Ad Effectiveness With Media Engagement

One of the challenges with media- and publisher-side people is they so often state how engaging their media are, while failing to connect the dots to effectiveness, or some other predetermined business objective. In light of this, Abbey Klaassen at AdAge just reported on Scripps Networks’ argument that receptivity is what the industry should be focusing on:

Scripps Networks is the latest to peel back the layers on engagement, contending that ad receptivity is really what gets viewers to buy the products advertised on TV and asking how one could know whether a program would have a high ad-receptivity ranking.

Where the industry is stuck is they're confusing ad effectiveness and media engagement," said Mike Pardee, senior VP-research at Scripps Networks. Engagement, he says, is a factor of ad receptivity.

"We say you can't discount creative, so unless you have good creative and the existing perception of the brand is reasonable, it's hard to come up with ad effectiveness. What we can deliver is ad receptivity -- you attract the right viewers and offer the right program environment. ... We asked, 'Are there things about media that predict, statistically, the advertising characteristics of a channel?'"

While the brand, advertising creative and hosting media all play a role in the engagement equation, receptivity certainly is an interesting dimension that moves the media side, especially, closer to connecting all those scattered dots. The full AdAge story, with highlights of Scripps' supporting research, is here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

IAB Touts Engagement of Interactive Media

I've been tied up with becoming a dad, but I'm getting back into the groove...
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (where I once consulted) launched a new campaign touting the viability of interactive media versus other. The anchor theme? Engagement, reports Joe Mandese from MediaPost:
At a time when print publishing trade associations representing newspapers, consumer magazines and trade magazines have embarked on big advertising campaigns to promote the vitality of their medium, a group representing online publishers is about to do the same. And like its print counterparts, the online group is leveraging the media theme du jour on Madison Avenue: engagement. Interestingly, that group, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, will be using a combination of print and online advertising buys to get its message out. The message: "Media More Engaging." The theme, which was crafted by Brand New World, is based on an extensive research study conducted among senior marketing and ad agency executives on how to best position interactive media, but its findings appear to be the same ones that could be applied to any medium.
Full story here.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Engagement & CGM Top 2007 Marketing Trends, Says Brand Keys

Rob Passikoff offers seven marketing predictions for 2007, and the first two caught my eye:

1) An ongoing emphasis on “engagement.”

Continuing to insert itself between traditional marketing activities and an increasing demand for return-on-investment assessments, engagement will occupy a good deal of marketers’ and advertisers’ attentions. As we predicted last year, a joint task force from the Association of National Advertisers, the Advertising Research Foundation, and the American Association of Advertising Agencies offered up the following definition this year: “turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context.” While that’s a passable (and all-inclusive) first-step definition, watch closely for more-precise, category- and brand-based definitions and metrics.

2) More reliance on consumer-generated content.

Accompanying the search for real consumer engagement will be increased reliance by marketers such as Nissan, JetBlue, Chevrolet, and MasterCard on consumer-generated content. Consumer-generated content will awaken marketers to certain values or trends--but it will carry its share of drawbacks as well. The first will be a sudden and disturbing recognition that there is no standard between paid and nonpaid consumption, and that there are no norms when it comes to the extent to which the content is wholly created by consumers or assisted by marketers. This will have repercussions in regard to agency-marketer relationships. The second will be a tacit acknowledgement that just because content is “consumer generated” doesn’t mean that strategy, creativity, or engagement will be represented, let alone attained, which will add further import in creating authentic (and predictive) engagement metrics.

I’ve long argued that consumer-generated media is a huge deal, and that it should play a massive role in our understanding and modeling of engagement. While Rob didn’t overtly declare that in his two predictions above, he at least juxtaposed the two concepts as the number one and two trends. That priority speaks for itself.

What are Rob’s five remaining trends? You can read them right here.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Internal Communications & Advertising Engagement

Why is employee engagement left out of the advertising engagement debate? Kevin Keohane and Mike Williams, experts in internal communications, offer a long overdue guest analysis on this important issue:

Can Marketers Learn Something About Engagement From (Good) Internal Communicators?

By Kevin Keohane and Mike Williams

There’s been a lot in the blogger community about consumer / brand engagement lately. The debate more or less centers on whether engagement is a “soft” or hard measure, and whether it can be linked to behavior change – e.g. sales activity, trial, or recommendation.

Max has been kind enough to ask for a contribution about employee engagement to add another ingredient to this most excellent engagement blog. The internal (employee/close stakeholder) engagement part of the equation is an important part of the conversation.

Two interesting points to begin the conversation with:

  1. The rise in linking “employee engagement“ to business performance (as opposed to measuring smiley faces -- employee satisfaction), and
  2. The “best practice” of a more democratized and participative model of employee engagement (as opposed to the delivery of internal corporate messages to captive employees and occasionally asking for their “feedback”).

The first element is that internal communication professionals have been under immense pressure to demonstrate their value to their organizations for a long time. People lose their budgets (at best) or their jobs (at worst) if they can’t point to the ROI of investment in employee engagement. There is a clear corollary to the ongoing marketing and advertising engagement dialogue.

Are there lessons, comparisons, or parallels that can be learned from the employee engagement space, where straight lines have been drawn between engagement efforts and the bottom line? Employee engagement folks have been able to link various communication efforts to explicit behavior change. While there is clearly a difference between an employee and a consumer, I suspect there are enough similarities to be worth discussing.

Internal communicators have developed an obsession for measurement (sometimes to the detriment of the creativity of their actual engagement efforts … which is another conversation). Probably the most compelling example of this is the service-profit chain. The first real case study of this appeared in 1997. In short, it’s a statistical model that allows you to track an increase in employee “engagement drivers” to correlated increases in customer satisfaction and loyalty, and to track this to increases in Total Shareholder Return (TSR), revenue and other financial performance measures. While of course employees are a captive population statistically, in the online environment that barrier is becoming less of an excuse to not create more robust approaches to marketing measurement.

Most of these “engagement drivers” being used internally are also very HR focused, and startlingly ignorant of the employee’s role in delivering the brand/customer experience as an element. Are they even measuring the right things? Interestingly, “Ten Mega Trends Transforming Marketing Measurements” applies just as well to measuring internal audiences (employees) as much as to external ones (consumers).

Since the service-profit chain emerged, it’s been developed, and criticized, but the general consensus is that employee engagement can contribute roughly 20% to an organization’s TSR. Many brand metrics put brand equity’s contribution to a company’s value in the same ballpark. Is there a link?

The second element is the relentless drive that (good) internal communication people have -- and few “traditional” communicators seem to appreciate -- toward interactivity, feedback and getting the employee (the consumer) involved as far upstream in the communication process as possible. This is where there are more visible correlations with the marketing community’s drive to get closer to the consumer and get the consumer engaged – in product development, message development and indeed in the marketing of the product or service itself.

In this area, digitally astute marketers and advertisers are perceived to be well ahead of their internal communication counterparts in many ways – then again, it can be pretty hard to launch a viral video inside the firewall. Or is it? Some speak of “MySpace for the office,” yet somehow there is a lot more to it than this in the world of the modern global organization. Simply transplanting MySpace functionality to the corporate environment seems quite clumsy and disingenuous.

It might be that ‘interactive’ inherently leaves a finger print that you can look at afterwards, particularly if it’s conversational. So the challenge is to help management realize that these things could be indicators of future revenue. Perhaps internal engagement is the space where we can prove that shared decision-making, community, feedback and “engagement” are predictive of success?

But more than this, management would really start to listen if, rather than being retrospective, we could start to use these ideas as real-time indicators to predict external marketing and advertising success.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Ten Mega Trends Transforming Marketing Measurements

Here's my latest MediaPost column, tackling ten mega trends affecting marketing and media measurements. Here's the link to the MediaPost comment section. This post doesn't directly tackle engagement, but it's implied:
Ten Trends Transforming Marketing Measurements
by Max Kalehoff, November 10, 2006

Last week I presented a primer on consumer-marketing measurements to a diverse group of communications professionals looking to increase their digital and media savvy. Rather than dive into tactical minutiae, I presented 10 recent mega-trends that are collectively transforming media and marketing measurements as we know them.

1. Digital network adoption. Mass adoption of the Internet and digital networks is fundamental, if obvious. Their impact on how we share and manage information is now perhaps the most significant influence on the evolution of metrics, among all that follow.

2. Attention erosion. Our networked society has resulted in massive increases in consumer choice and, from a marketer perspective, an erosion of attention. Many economists postulate that we’re undergoing a transition away from an economy based on shelf space to one based on attention scarcity. From a measurements perspective, there are two major implications: first, there is a growing demand by marketers to tap into measurements to embrace this shift. Second, many data collection and measurement methodologies–such as surveys–are susceptible to the very same attention scarcity. In market research circles, this is often referred to as the “continuing drop in panel participation and response rates.”

3. Speed of measurement. The near-real-time intelligence delivery that characterized the Bloomberg terminal is permeating nearly all facets of marketing measurements. Even if measurements are not delivered instantaneously in a slick, colorful dashboard, the expectation of faster data and actionable insights is growing. Speed is a competitive advantage.

4. Democratization of data and analytics. There was once a time when access to vast piles of market-research data and processing power was contingent upon huge budgets. While that’s still true in many cases, digital networks have made more data more accessible–even sometimes to the point of open-source or free. An interesting manifestation is the growth of free metrics services like Alexa, Google Trends and BlogPulse to understand Web behaviors. These services are not heavy-duty market-intelligence tools, but nonetheless are valuable, directionally significant and influencing perceptions and decisions around the things they report. Don’t forget Google Analytics and, which are offering low-cost marketing and CRM dashboards that any company can implement overnight. (Disclosure: BlogPulse is an R&D platform and demonstration tool from my employer.)

5. Observational measurements. In digital networks, people often passively emit both anonymous and identifiable gestures, whether it’s visiting a Web site, programming a TiVo, commenting in a public discussion forum or a host of other activities. Observational research techniques–sometimes called digital ethnography–are not a replacement for more overt data-collection methods, like face-to-face surveys, but they are an important addition when attempting to obtain natural, unprompted insights into the behavior of customers and prospects.

6. Unstructured data. Included with the arrival of observational measurement is analysis of unstructured data. From news stories to discussion forums to blogs to multimedia-sharing sites, people increasingly publish data abundant with insights and trends. People now have digital megaphones in which to share their facts, opinions and experiences, and this is forcing businesses into a new era of listening.

7. Beyond demographics. Traditional demographics–like gender and age–will always be important, but observational techniques are helping marketers to understand and segment their customers in new ways. For example, based on past behavior, what are their interests, psychographic traits, life stages, passions or emotional depth?

8. Customer-centric measurements and planning. The trends above have one thing in common: customers increasingly are at the center of the universe, versus companies, brands, products or media. This is causing big marketers to base their planning more around those people.

9. Data integration comes of age. With more customer and data touch points come the need for more data integration and better market modeling. In forecasting, planning, adjusting and evaluating, data integration is where myriad measurements will achieve clarity, dimension and action.

10. Reevaluating relationships with whom and what we measure. Finally, as consumers become more empowered, the disciplines of measurement and research will increasingly cater to them (just as marketers are doing in general). Top-down, “people-are-subjects” measurement approaches will need to evolve toward greater propositions of relationship, loyalty, value, trust and reciprocity.

Where do you think measurements are headed?

You can comment on the MediaPost blog here.

(Cross-post with AttentionMax.)

Engagement Forces Marketers To Assign Value To Soft Measures

In my last post, I quoted a Coca-Cola exec asserting that sales are the bottom line, and any talk of engagement should reflect that. And then I asked, short of sales, can’t engagement also be hugely important if it ties to a pre-defined business outcome, like a changed attitude, preference or behavior?

Rob Fields at Marketing Pop Culture commented:
[T]he term tends to be misused by advertising people who are struggling to protect budgets by suggesting that advertising can be really effective at changing behavior. There’s a lot of thin ice if you subscribe to this path. Probably the safest course to chart is to make sure that the brand is clear about the objective for each campaign element. Why are we advertising? Why are we doing PR? Why do we have viral elements? So, while it’s unfair to judge every element on payback (how much do you get from PR, for example?), the ultimate objective is sales.
Fields pondered some more and concluded:
…I think the net positive with all of this focus on engagement is that marketers are now getting serious about how to place value on soft measures. What engagement ultimately speaks to is an attempt to develop an overall integrated measure. While that may be impossible, it’s also important to shift how marketers judge value for those perceptual and attitudinal measures that help create a holistic picture of how well a campaign is performing.
Are softer engagement-like measures ultimately incremental, componential scores that optimize the road to sales? Of course, this question applies to marketing and advertising initiatives oriented toward branding and awareness, versus direct response.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Coca-Cola And Engagement

Wendy Davis at MediaPost captures some of Coca-Cola’s questions about “engagement”:

John Stichweh, director of global interactive marketing for The Coca-Cola Company, this morning cast doubt on whether the company thinks engagement is a goal worth pursuing. The measurement that really matters, he said, is sales. “How many more cases of Coke am I selling? I don’t know,” he said at the Ad:Tech conference in New York.

In fact, Stichweh proposed that the concept of “engagement,” as well as other metrics like “brand awareness” that serve as proxies for sales, fall far short of what marketers require. “What am I getting for the shareholder?” he asked, rhetorically. “I don’t know.”

At the end of the day, sales are what are important for a marketer. But short of sales, can’t engagement also be hugely important if it ties to a pre-defined business outcome, like a changed attitude, preference or behavior?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Why Is Word Of Mouth Missing From The Model?

Tom Hespos, over at MediaPost Online Spin (where I also write a column), considers the utter absence of word of mouth in media and marketing models. He writes:

Messaging is messaging, and when prospects receive marketing messages, those messages may be successful at prompting consideration or altering specific perceptions of the brand or product. But that’s only part of the picture. Increasingly, people who are considering a purchase turn not to marketing messaging, but to one another. It’s that aspect of mix modeling that I believe comes up short…

Modeling might be able to provide some decent feedback on the overall media mix if opinions on products and services remained static, but the universe of online conversation rarely stays that way. It’s a dynamic organism that can turn on a dime if, for instance, customer service policies change, a person or small group of people discover a flaw, or someone discovers a new use or application of the product. Perceptions are constantly changing, and messaging can do only so much when people can tune in to their peers and get real information with the marketing-speak filtered out.

I responded in the comments:

I’m glad to see a media guy thinking along these lines. It’s amazing that so many media and marketing people have left out of the equation the most influential information source: word of mouth. Rest assured, there is some innovative, experimental work being done by inputting consumer-generated media into a variety of market models. We even were able to predict the peaks of low-carb and Atkins diets several quarters before the actual drops. With word of mouth increasingly potent versus eroding (though still very important) paid media, CGM serves as a powerful proxy to understand the contribution AND inextricable influence of word of mouth in larger behavioral and sales trends and forecasts. It is an amazing, early indicator of actual and potential trends. But there are both quantitative and qualitative variables, and they can be complex. Moreover, social-influence mapping doesn’t always fit neatly alongside rigid reach-and-exposure metrics, which often form the basis of market models. But there’s great opportunity here.

Friday, November 03, 2006

New Media Stumble Into "Engagement" Bash, Confront Elephant In Room

I polished up an old post about new-media guys and engagement, to become this week’s MediaPost OnlineSpin column. What do you think?

New Media Stumble Into "Engagement" Bash, Confront Elephant In Room

by Max Kalehoff, November 3, 2006

As the social-media and Web 2.0 revolution continues, I’ve been convinced the traditional advertising and media establishment was alone in the debate over engagement. The old institution is nothing less than frenzied over the eroding reach-and-frequency model. Well, I was dead wrong.

Scott Karp from Publishing 2.0 last week pointed out that some major Web 2.0 and new-media insiders–whose religion usually seems galaxies apart from the traditional sect–are facing similar challenges and stumbling into the same engagement conundrum. Among these new-media stars include rising video bloggers Ze Frank (of the show with zefrank) and Michael Barron (of Rocketboom). They simply can’t agree on the relative size and importance of their audiences.

Perhaps most notable is Robert Scoble, the influential blogger and former Microsoft staffer famed for building a friendlier, human face for his employer. Scoble, now working at a podcasting media company called, recently underscored how all media experiences are not equal and therefore result in different outcomes: “There’s another stat out there called ‘engagement.’ No one is measuring it that I know of. What do I mean? Well, I’ve compared notes with several bloggers and journalists and when the Register links to us we get almost no traffic. But they claim to have millions of readers. So, if millions of people are hanging out there but no one is willing to click a link, that means their audience has low engagement. The Register is among the lowest that I can see. Compare that to Digg. How many people hang out there every day? Maybe a million, but probably less. Yet if you get linked to from Digg you’ll see 30,000 to 60,000 people show up. And these people don’t just read. They get involved. I can tell when Digg links to me cause the comments for that post go up too.”

Scott Karp correctly noted how new-media people “may be ahead of the curve on formats and hip notions like ‘conversation,’ but they’re actually playing catch-up on the deep, intractable problems of media– like how to prove the value.” Scoble validated this, but, to my delight, he also tackled the monumental elephant in the room. Yes, the one that so many avoid: the connection among engagement, action and sales.

Scoble wrote: “So, why should engagement matter to an advertiser? Well, as an advertiser I want to talk to an audience who’ll actually DO something. Yeah, I’m hoping to get a sale. Yesterday Buzz Bruggeman, CEO of Active Words, was driving me around and told the story of when he was in USA Today. He got 32 downloads. When he got linked to by my blog? Got about 400. My audience was (and is) a lot smaller than USA Today[’s], but the engagement of the blog audience got his attention. How could we measure audience engagement?”

There is no be-all solution to measuring engagement; heck, the advertising and media industry is having a hard enough time agreeing on a definition! But the lack of action, sales or a defined business outcome in all the pondering is a problem. I’m not omitting the value of captivating media or brand experiences, nor am I suggesting a narrow world of direct response. But there’s got to be a closer link to the desired business result. That’s largely why Erwin Ephron, a media planning guru, has declared the debate nothing more than Abbot and Costello. For addressing this issue, and even representing the media-publisher side of the equation, I present Scoble with a platinum medal of honor.

So what’s next? The fact is that few understand the relationship among media content, the involvement of audiences with said media, and the business outcome that results when advertisers join the party. To make matters worse, that relationship is getting more complex in a world undergoing media-choice proliferation, attention aversion and trust erosion. And there are other emerging variables in the engagement quandary: brands are increasingly becoming media experiences themselves, without mediators, and audiences are playing a more prominent role in forming and becoming part of such experiences.

Looking ahead, measuring engagement will probably manifest in a hybrid approach, rooted in sophisticated data integration, and resembling something closer to direct-relationship marketing. It also will require closer collaboration among media, advertisers and especially customers, with methods unique to each circumstance (versus spending all our time trying to reach a broad-sweeping model). But however we get there, engagement must stay channeled toward business outcome. Without that focus, all this engagement could prove ephemeral.

Comment on the MediaPost blog here.

(Cross-post with AttentionMax.)