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

September 2, 2008

engaging eyes

What is “engagement” anyway?

Engagement means something a little different to everyone. Here are just a few examples:

ARF (Advertising Research Foundation)“Engagement is turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context.”

This definition is a bit confusing and sounds more like a branding goal than a description of a user experience. Isn’t “turning on a prospect to a brand idea” the goal of most advertising? If so, does engagement simply mean ‘advertising enhanced with surrounding context’?

The ARF definition is also very broad and includes three qualitative variables that would require sophisticated (if not expensive) measurement methods.  How do you measure “turning on”, “enhanced”, and “context”?


Steve Hall of Adrants “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”

Steve admittedly didn’t spend much time whipping up this formula, but it’s definitely more tangible than the ARF definition. Unfortunately the variables Steve offers raise important questions about the qualitative aspects of measuring engagement.

  •  ‘time spent’ – Are extremely compelling interactions that take little time less valuable than moderately compelling activities that take more time?
  • “response rates” – I assume Steve believes engagement with publisher content provides value to the advertiser. As discussed earlier, this probably isn’t the case.  Also, ‘response rates’ as a metric assumes the last interaction before a “response” is always most valuable. We still don’t know if that is true.
  • “recall rates” –  I can vividly recall many ads I do not like, as well as ads for brands I do not buy. That said, recall is still a useful measurement of attention and awareness.

Eric Peterson of Web Analytics Demystified “Engagement is an estimate of the degree and depth of visitor interaction on the site against a clearly defined set of goals.”

Visitor engagement formula

Eric’s formula of engagement is a decent framework for publishers and brand site managers, but doesn’t provide much guidance for creating a universal advertising metric.

The other problem with formula is also strength; each component can be weighted to fit what each publisher believes to be most important. As a result, “engagement” would never become a quantifiable constant that can be used to measure one publisher against another.

Many types of engagement
All definitions of engagement illustrate another challenge: there are many activities and experiences that can be considered engagement. Peterson’s formula demonstrates that publishers can readily establish a consistent, formulaic metric representing numerous activities. For advertisers, this isn’t so easy.

A single campaign can simultaneously span many touch-points, each offering a different set of possible activities. And this undoubtedly changes with each subsequent campaign.


Next time: The five Cs of engagement

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