ARF Can't Define 'Engagement,' We Gave It A Shot


After eight months. the Advertising Research Foundation task force charged with defining the new measurement metric "engagement" hasn't really done so. Well, it seems simple to us. It's all about how involved one becomes with a media vehicle and how that involvement affects the brand. Hmm. How 'bout Time Spent (with medium) + Response Rate (average CTR, letters to editor, subscription/renewal rates, number of comments left on a blog) + Average Ad/Content Recall Rates + Uptick in Measured Brand Metric? And that was only after five minutes of thinking. Come on guys. It can't really be that difficult can it?

Written by Steve Hall    Comments (3)     File: Policy     Mar-21-06  
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I shared your skepticism going into this week's ARF conference (e.g. "Will they truly define it?") but I actually think your comment prematurely jumps the gun. The literature the ARF handed out at the conference job does a very nice job diving into the specifics and nuances around this important metric, and there's a suprising amount of research backing this direction. This won't be simple and the core definition that "Engagement is turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by a surrounding content" leaves wiggle room for all to pour their own "surrounding context" into the definition. Still, what an encouraging leap forward from our overly simplified media measurement world of reach and frequency. (Even you attempt to "just define it" may give short shrift to other key considerations.) Surely, in this age of consumer control, power, and message creation (i.e. CGM) we can do much better on measurements. It's also seems clear amidst all the 'conversation' around the halls and events at this ARF event that the rules of "accountability" are going to change as a result of this initiative. More discussion today. Hope I'm right about all this. :-)

-- Pete Blackshaw

Posted by: Pete Blackshaw on March 22, 2006 07:54 AM


Thanks! You know me...always prematurely jumping to conclusions:-) Thanks for your added insight. For sure, it's a big and very welcome step beyond current metrics and one which I am very excited to see get fleshed out. After all, who cares who simply saw or read and ad or a medium's content. What's important is how they engaged with that ad/content and what it inspired them to do and how that effected the brand. I'd like nothing more than to flush reach and frequency down the toilet!

Posted by: Steve Hall on March 22, 2006 10:19 AM

For once, its actual research instead of self serving validation - and the people on the team doing the work are the best measurement people in the business. Sure, we thought about time spent with the brand - but that would reward vehicles that suck up a lot of time and don't communicate anything. Jerry Zaltman (who is on the team) suggested Co-creation of meaning - and I liked that a lot (its still in the running).

To measure a response may reward the offer more than the communication. I'm glad the arf is not converging on anything too fast. There may be no good answer, but so what? There's no cold fusion either. The arf's job is to rise above pandering and self interest and try to measure something we can all agree to - and that may be too hard - but at least they are trying.

Posted by: Ted McConnell on March 29, 2006 11:29 PM

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