Archive for the ‘advertising’ Category


Changing the Marcom Mindset (part I)

January 11, 2010

The marketing communications industry is ending a long decade of anxiety and bewilderment, mostly stemming from the increased importance of digital platforms, consumer control, media fragmentation, “free” content, and the waning confidence in the ability of traditional advertising to influence sales.

And while marketers find it increasingly difficult to generate awareness, trial, or loyalty through traditional marcom methods, they’re also struggling with a whole new array of tools.

It’s the mindset, stupid.

The biggest obstacle we’re facing is one of mindset – a one-to-many mindset, where most marketers and ad agencies still believe their job is to deliver commercial messages to large groups of consumers. Because of this mindset, our industry has been slow to adapt or embrace a new mindset, where marcom is something consumers seek out versus avoids.

Can we change?

This is the first in a series of post where I’ll outline my thoughts on where marketing communications is going…or where it should go. My guess is only those who change their mindset now will prosper in the next decade.

Next time: Understanding Brands


The Price For Attention…Going Up?

November 28, 2009

Out of the hundreds of RFPs and briefs I’ve read over the past several years, the majority of them say creating ‘increased attention’ for a particular brand (product or service) is their primary goal.

Our industry doesn’t have a reliably accurate awareness metric like Cost-Per-Attention. Sure, we can commission recall studies, or extrapolate neuromarketing results to ad exposures, but no one can truly measure the cost for generating attention or recall, let alone attribute those costs to a specific marketing activity. But if we could…

Will marketers pay more or less to generate attention in the future?

My sense is marketers are an optimistic bunch. They see technology as a cost-cutter, providing advances in media mix modeling, behavioral targeting, and results attribution – things that should lead to greater efficiency. They also see developments in digital media and what has been touted as Web 2.0 as an effective, low cost method of engaging consumers and generating awareness via word of mouth.

On the flip side, we’re seeing an avalanche of content, media, and activities competing for attention. Media costs aren’t getting cheaper and consumers are increasingly successful in avoiding advertising. We’re also seeng more SKUs and services than ever, all competing for our attention.

Add to that the cost of agency services. Margins are falling as brand marketers adopted a cattle-call/jumpball approach to selecting agencies. What brand marketers don’t seem to understand is they’re paying bloated rate cards to offset the increasing cost of prospecting and pitching. Every time a brand manager does an agency search, or sends out an RFP to a dozen agencies, they’re burning tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars in agency costs. Those costs need to be made up somewhere, and in the end, they’re paid in hidden fees by the agency’s customers – the brand.

My guess is price for attention is going to increase over the coming years, but unfortunately nobody will be measuring it.


Fugliness and attention

September 18, 2009

I couldn’t resist sharing this – one of the ugliest banners I’ve seen in a while, but it sure got my attention. Ironically this banner comes from a company that trains people to plan, buy, and sell interactive media.


Differentiation is the most important factor for getting attention. One way of getting attention is by being visually obnoxious, and Laredo Group sure scored big with this one. However, getting attention isn’t of much value if your creative results in a negative impression of your brand.


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

September 4, 2008

The 5 C’s of Engagement
Fundamentally, engagement is a state of deeply occupied attention. This may or may not include active elements of involvement and participation. For example, I might find a video highly engaging, although watching is pretty much a passive experience. Playing games, creating digital art, and messaging friends are good examples of active engagement.

I categorize digital engagements/experiences by 5 Cs

• Captivation
• Conversation
• Collaboration
• Creation
• Commerce

Captivation is often a passive form of engagement: watching videos, listening to music, or viewing images. It’s important to understand there is a strong qualitative factor that separates apathetic media consumption from captivation. This is one reason I feel ‘time spent’ is an inadequate measure of true engagement. Ten minutes of exposure to second-rate content doesn’t carry twice the weight of a compelling experience lasting five minutes. I also consider single-player games, demonstrations, and e-learning applications interactive platforms for captivation.

Conversation is a highly interactive form of engagement and a fundamental characteristic of social media. Posting, commenting, and messaging are means for users to engage others in opinions and ideas. From a brand marketer’s perspective, conversations are a powerful force that can drive product awareness, consideration and affinity. Like captivation, conversations that are entertaining, emotional, or otherwise provide value are more engaging than conversations that don’t.

Collaboration through wikis, multi-player games, and work applications are other examples of engagement. Brands have only scratched the surface in building collaborative experiences that let consumers not only interact with each other, but with a brand in creating something interesting.

Creation is a form of engagement that encompasses two separate activities: making and sharing. Digital toys, drawing and music applications are just a few examples of platforms that allow users to make their own creations. Product customization and visualization features also fall into this category. Media sharing platforms that allow users to post and share images, video, and digital documents overlap the creation and conversation experience.

Commerce might be the most powerful form of engagement. The seemingly prosaic process of shopping and purchasing is often one of the most memorable interactions we ever have with a brand. Likewise, the experiential factors of seeking product information, quotes, and customer service have a critical impact on conversion and affinity.

Next time: Are all engagements created equal?


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


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

August 28, 2008

Publishers and advertisers view engagement differently
Advertising supported publishers and corporate/brand site managers have always used web analytics to measure basic forms of user engagement, e.g. number of visitors, page views, time spent, etc. These measures also provide publishers with immediate feedback on traffic levels, and ultimately, the trend of available impressions that could be sold.


As Internet users began spending more time with high bandwidth content and Web 2.0 applications, publishers soon realized revenue models based on pages served wasn’t such a great idea. Some even theorized users of this content might be more valuable to advertisers.


Advertisers already knew rich media outperformed standard banner ads in both branding effectiveness and CTRs, so it was easy to conclude that high bandwidth content and social media experiences would provide similar value.


Many managers of brand sites and interactive marketing researchers successfully identified correlations between site metrics such as repeat visits, time spent, and page views and brand metrics. Unfortunately the traffic on most brand sites is relatively small, thus difficult to move the needle in a big way. Brand marketers are increasingly dependant on high traffic publishers and ad networks to connect with new consumers.


The wall between advertisement and publisher content is high on most ad supported sites, as it should be. However, banner blindness is now an unspoken truth and the primary goal for most online advertisers today is to simply get a user’s attention.


In many ways, advertisers and publishers compete for attention – this is nothing new, but if a publisher is successful in growing highly engaged users, doesn’t that engagement come at the expense of the advertiser?


Advertisers are primarily interested in getting consumers to engage with their brand, not in increasing ad exposures to users who are engaged in doing something else. Too often brand engagement is peripheral to the engagement experience.


Next time: What is “engagement” anyway?


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