July 2008 - Marketing Methods

Measuring Audience Engagement

By Peter Koeppel

Some advertisers are starting to look at audience engagement, instead of viewership (eyeballs), as a measurement of the effectiveness of TV programming in connecting with viewers, according an April Broadcasting & Cable (B&C) article. Chief marketing officers are under pressure to come up with new metrics to measure advertising initiatives and the engagement metric is apparently more acceptable than ROI among general advertisers and their agencies.

IAG Research has come up with a ranking for the top 12 programs by engagement. This ranking reveals some surprising findings. The CW series, “One Tree Hill,” is ranked 184th among primetime network series among adults 18-49, based on ratings; however, it is tied for sixth place in the IAG engagement rankings. More familiar shows comprise most of the other slots in the top rankings, such as “Heroes” (ranking #1), “Lost,” “Prison Break” and “30 Rock.” “Heroes” had an engagement index of 121, which means that viewers of this series are 21 percent more attentive than viewers of the average primetime series, according to B&C. It’s interesting that “Prison Break” has more than twice the audience of “One Tree Hill,” but they are tied in terms of audience engagement.

NewMediaMetrics developed a ranking of emotional attachment by cable network for adults 18-49. Discovery had the highest ranking and Spike TV had the lowest ranking. What’s interesting here is that Comedy Central and Lifetime have the same audience rating, but the level of audience engagement for Comedy indexed at 149 and Lifetime only had a 64 index. Apparently, Comedy viewers are much more engaged than Lifetime viewers. I expect at some point networks like Discovery, with high levels of viewer engagement, will charge a premium for advertising if they can demonstrate that their viewers are also more engaged with their advertising.

There is disagreement in the traditional advertising industry as to whether engagement will replace ratings as the new standard metric. Huw Griffiths from OMD says, “There often is no strong correlation between the rating of a show and its engagement.” This finding is similar to what we see with DRTV, where there is not always a correlation between the best performing DRTV networks and the highest rated/most expensive networks. However, one thing many in the general ad industry agree on, according to the B&C article, is that “they need a metric that goes beyond counting eyeballs,” reports Robert Barocci of the Advertising Research Foundation.

Traditional advertisers and agencies seem reluctant to begin making media buys based on measurements such as engagement and ROI, “because this adds complexity and cost for buyers,” according to B&C. In my opinion, that’s a big mistake. In today’s fragmented media environment, savvy buyers should be utilizing a range of tools, including the precise metrics of DRTV, engagement metrics and ratings in order to make the best media choices for their clients.

Peter Koeppel is president of Koeppel Direct Inc., a full-service media buying agency based in Dallas. He can be reached at (972) 732-6110, or via e-mail at [email protected].


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