MediaPost Media Magazine -

by Paul Parton

The conversation sure seems to be heating up around the issue of measuring engagement. The Advertising Research Foundation made it the focus of its annual conference and brought in some very big wigs to talk about it, many of them citing examples of their own forays into more engaging communications. At the same time, the Newspaper National Network has been crowing about the results of a study conducted by Millward Brown that demonstrates — surprise, surprise — that newspapers are the most engaging medium. And an interesting study was released by Ball State University (and reported on by MediaPost) that explored the comparative engagement of different media.But even though the industry has been mulling this topic for a good 18 months now, there are few conclusions to report thus far. Actually, that’s not quite fair: The ARF has said that engagement is not going to replace frequency in the gross ratings points equation.

Now that’s a damn shame. For most people who champion the idea of engagement, frequency is a worn-out and generally useless vestige of an older advertising era. Frequency suggests that you can create successful communications by simply beating people over the head with the same idea. And if frequency remains the currency in the media industry, then engagement will be nothing more than a pleasant, fluffy ideal.

Indeed, it’s tough for anyone trying to make measurable sense of engagement. Hell, even the word is complicated. There aren’t many words that span the emotional spectrum from a loving commitment to marriage to a hostile encounter between two armies. Engagement is a remarkably nuanced word. Likewise, engagement in the context of media and advertising is a very nuanced idea.

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