Jim Meskauskus argues in his iMedia Connection (10/10/2006) article, Can Anybody Really Measure Engagement, that the theory of engagement has less of a practical application to online advertising than the more commonly applied reach and frequency. While commonly accepted, his article goes on to define the theory of engagement but falls short of demonstrating why reach and frequency are applicably valuable to the online advertising initiative.
More importantly, however, is to remind ourselves that online advertising is, and always will be the most advance 1:1 direct marketing medium-capable advertising platform. Branding is a surface capability, but it is the direct response advertisers that are killing it online. Brand advertisers who have created a blended response-generating model have developed an approach to online advertising that generates positive, measurable results as well. At the end of the day, the web enables us to communicate to an individual. If you can recognize someone, distinguish them from someone else, you can message to them specifically. The technology is there for us to use.
Reach and frequency tells us how many people we can touch and how often. But moving beyond that is composition. Who do we reach through our ad campaigns can become more important than the gross numbers. What percent of the audience we touch is comprised of an existing customer base would be more valuable to an advertiser than how many people are touched. Are we reprospecting existing customers? If so, should we speak to them differently? The technology is there for us to do so.
I think that engagement is an umbrella concept that encompasses what is possible online. Reach and frequency is within the hierarcy. The subset now, however is composition of the advertising audience and driving known individuals towards specific actions. You want to measure engagement, even on a branding basis, personalize the message to the indivudal because its possible, measurable and necessary online.
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