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Defining & Measuring Engagement – A Holy Grail? (part I)

August 27, 2008

I’ve written a long diatribe on our industry’s attempts to define and measure engagement. I’ll post my thoughts here in bite-sized chunks over the coming weeks.

Engagement is still a hot topic in the interactive marketing community, even after years trying to define, measure, and monetize it. I want to take a closer look at the challenges we’ve faced and even offer some suggestions.

Advertising media is most often valuated and purchased using ‘exposure metrics’ like GRPs, impressions, and time spent. Although brand marketers have been long frustrated to translate audience exposure into a real ROI, these metrics have become both familiar and grudgingly accepted yardsticks of media value.

By the early 90’s most of us believed the experiential nature of interactive media could offer far more value to advertisers than simply exposing consumers to a commercial message. In the years since, broadband penetration and the explosion of user generated content increased our interest in packaging engagement as a metric.

The barriers we face
After much discussion and debate, we still find ourselves unable to address these key challenges:

  • Engagement means something different to ad supported publishers, brand site managers, and advertisers
  • Too many activities can be considered “engagement”
  • The value of engagement is highly dependant on qualitative factors

Next time: Publishers and advertisers view engagement differently

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