A savvy media raconteur once quipped to me a telling observation that is probably the root of all the over-extended discussions that has dogged that much abused word, engagement.
Essentially, he posited that any reasonably intelligent intern could join a media agency and hopefully, after a couple months, he or she would fully appreciate basic media planning concepts such as reach and frequency.
But as he followed through to his punch, he doubted that even if the intern stayed at the agency a couple of years whether she or he would be able to nail a crisp definition of engagement because it is so multifaceted and indistinct a concept. It was then I realized the enigma of engagement: Every media person knows what engagement is, but nobody can put it in terms which everyone else can agree on.
Subsequently, I came across a succinct definition of engagement by Dr. Carl Marci of Innerscope. He defined biological engagement as: attention + emotion = engagement. For me, the strength of this definition is in its simplicity, yet it can have a universal application across media.
Moreover, Dr. Marci revealed how, in a lab setting, he could measure engagement by a combination of biometric proxies such as eye-gaze, heart-beat and galvanic skin response. For example, someone can watch the same TV ad in different program environments and as a consequence be responsive at varying levels of intensity to the ad depending on the type of program being watched.
We can also pinpoint evidence of consumer engagement in the real world via a panoply of robust surrogates. One of the more palpable is the increased level of active consumer interest when using multiple types of screens: for example TV, computer and Smartphone.
In the Spring of this year, UM and AOL completed an exclusive joint venture research endeavor exploring one of the most inspiring areas of the digital media revolution, Smartphones. Entitled Smartphone, Smart Marketing, this extensive study harnessed qualitative diary panels, ethnographic study and quantitative research to interrogate the opportunities in this area.
A key area we probed was media meshing. Media meshing extends beyond what is called concurrent media exposure – it is when the consumer is viewing more than one media channel specifically to look at particular content so that you can be fully immersed in the topic. Owing to their ability to provide instant information gratification anywhere the user chooses, Smartphones are today’s ultimate media meshing tool. For instance, if you want to check out an actress you’re watching at that very moment on TV, a Smartphone can parade to you everything known about her in an instant while you remain in your armchair and continue to catch glimpses of her.
Smartphone, Smart Marketing highlighted 67% 18-34s were more apt to look at similar content on their Smartphone while viewing another medium. One of the reasons why receptivity is amplified when Smartphones are an integral part of the communication mix is that only 13% of consumers agreed they were “completely focused” when watching TV but this doubled to 27% when viewing their Smartphone.
Similar findings that substantiate the power of media meshing and its influence on engagement have been seen from organizations as diverse as MTV and Keller Fay. These studies underscore that viewing related content on two screens or more increases viewer receptivity and spurs them to talk about the topic they were watching.
The industry has taken a long time to come to terms with engagement. In our industry’s characteristically faddish manner, the concept has probably lost many of those who might have been originally enticed by its promise of more effective communications. But now we can understand and measure it both in the biometrics lab and the real world. It’s time to re-engage with engagement.
-by Graeme Hutton, director of consumer insights