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By Abhishek Uppal

Engagement Marketing: The Competitive Advantage Of Online
In traditional media, such as print and TV, information is pushed down to the consumer, and there is typically no way for the user to interact actively with the content. The Internet, however, requires active interaction with content, asking users to make more choices and engage deeply with the content. This leads to the potential of engagement marketing, where the advertiser can have the consumer involved in various stages of product promotion.

Engagement marketing can take many forms including interaction with an online ad, Website interaction (e.g., customizing options for a new car purchase), taking a survey, search queries, and user-generated content-which is now gathering significant momentum. In these cases, the consumer actively engages with the brand, and the message becomes user-driven as opposed to advertiser-driven marketing. Over the last two years, we have witnessed a significant increase in the number of marketers who use engagement marketing campaigns. Two campaigns by traditional brand advertisers that stand out are MyCoke and M&M. On the MyCoke.com site, users can redeem Coke points for ringtones, music, and sporting events; users can also mix music, download screensavers, wallpaper, and videos, and chat with friends. Similarly, on the M&M’s.com Website, users can personalize their M&M’s, watch M&M videos and M&M commercials, play interactive games, download wallpaper and screensavers, and send animated M&M greeting cards.

Such engagement campaigns enable advertisers to collect consumer registration data, which contributes to a continuous feedback loop whereby advertisers can offer relevant content and messaging and obtain feedback on product design and product attributes. Engagement marketing also allows consumers to become an integral contributor to creating the marketing message. Doritos’ “Crash The Superbowl” ad competition best illustrates this aspect of engagement marketing.

The active decision-making process inherent in online media allows marketers to reach consumers when they are most receptive to marketing messages. While the Web was never a passive medium, the recent trends in user-generated content and user involvement in brand creation, characterized by Web 2.0, have made engagement marketing much more promising. As such, advertisers are increasingly adopting engagement marketing. The advertiser can also more effectively measure a consumer’s interest in a product through such measurement techniques as length of time at the Website, number of page views, and frequency of Website visits.

Measurability
One of the clear strengths of online advertising, and what many advertisers perceive to be the “holy grail” of advertising, is the ability to accurately measure return on advertising spending. The Internet’s potential to deliver this high degree of measurability is due to the Web’s innate ability to track user actions such as a click, page views, or conversion to sale. The main reason for this tracking ability is that Web-based ads are delivered directly to a user, in real time, while most other types of advertising are delivered to a device or medium (TV, radio, magazine, etc.). This interactivity of the user and the advertiser allows not only for targeted ads, but also measurement of response. As a result, online advertising is usually able to provide real time feedback on the success of a campaign, while in a typical offline campaign the advertiser may not understand the success of an ad for weeks following the campaign. The high degree of measurability of online advertising has changed the way marketers approach advertising.

While the Internet is much more measurable than offline, it does not necessarily mean the Web is always more cost-effective. But the higher degree of measurability enables the advertiser to optimize a campaign and help eliminate wasted advertising dollars. The measurability of online advertising is an ever-evolving science, as there is no single, key metric that determines the ultimate success of a campaign. Tracking has evolved from eyeballs, to click-throughs, to actual sales. New forms of measurement are evolving, such as measuring consumer engagement as opposed to just page views. The emergence of paid search as an efficient advertising and customer acquisition method has infused marketers with a renewed analytical approach to marketing, and marketers are now demanding similar levels of analysis and accountability for dollars spent on other online and offline marketing channels. Online advertising’s high degree of measurability and accountability will compel marketers to increase further their allocations to online advertising.

Targeting
In addition to its ability to measure and fine tune advertising campaigns in real time, the wide variety of vertical content available on the Internet combined with the widespread adoption of analytics has enabled an efficient system for ad targeting. There are several forms of targeting used by advertisers today, including:
Geography
Demographics
Time of Day
Content Channel
Behavioural Analysis

While targeting is used by advertisers for offline campaigns as well, typically through the use of demographic data, the Internet’s innate ability to track user actions enables advertisers to use more sophisticated targeting technologies. For example, a direct mail campaign could target a household by the geography, income, gender, subscriptions, etc.; however, much of this data may be stale, and the advertiser cannot react in real time. Through the use of online targeting, an advertiser is able to track a user’s current actions and deliver an appropriate ad. Similarly, if a user has visited a number of auto sites, an auto advertiser could target that user on a general Website through the use of behavioural targeting, using cookies. While there is some risk that the use of cookie data may be regulated by legislators, I think this risk is small, and data stored in cookies must be differentiated from spyware. One of the best forms of targeting online is through the use of paid search as an advertiser is showing an ad in direct response to a user query at a time when the consumer is receptive to an advertiser.

The Added Benefit: The Web Is Now A Mass Market. The Internet is the No. 1 media format at work and the No. 2 media format at home. Internet has become integrated with the everyday life of consumers, which means that often the Internet as a media and advertising format is present when other forms of media are not present. As such, expect the power of online advertising to continue to gain momentum as a result of the increasing ubiquity of the Internet as an advertising medium. The mainstreaming of the Internet allows advertisers to reach a mass market. For example, brand advertisers could reach approximately 50 million consumers by advertising on Yahoo!’s main page, as Ford Motor company did with its successful F150 launch campaign.

Yahoo!, Google, and MSN together reach 120 million people every day, for a fraction of the cost that such reach can be achieved through TV or other channels. However, the vast reach of Internet is not new but the amount of time spent on the Internet, and the level of people’s interaction with the Internet, has evolved from checking the Internet once a day to online becoming a persistent media channel. This type of pervasive presence of the Internet in the daily life of people, as best documented by Ball State University’s recent research, has been the major factor in elevating the Internet to its status as a pervasive media channel.

Advertising Online Supports The Offline Campaign. Research indicates that online advertising has a clear positive incremental effect on brand metrics. When evaluating the incremental effect of online advertising on brands, Dynamic Logic (a New York based online marketing measurement company) found that online advertising increases metrics such as aided brand awareness, ad awareness, message association, brand favourability, and purchase intent. While TV and magazine advertising also have a positive incremental effect on brand metrics, online advertising often reaches consumers who are not reachable through traditional media formats, including the highly sought after at-work user.

A recent study conducted by Ball State University’s Center for Media Design indicates that the Internet has joined television and radio in achieving significant reach in all major day parts. In fact, as mentioned above, the Internet is the second leading medium at home and the leading medium at work. Furthermore, the Internet exhibits fewer age and gender differences in its reach compared with traditional media channels. This is especially true for the younger demographic, who have become particularly fickle in their media consumption habits and receptiveness to advertising on conventional media channels.

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