Get Engaged…Whatever That Means

Engagement will go down in history as the most ambiguous advertising buzzword of all time.

Influencers all over industry are talking about it, but the lack of a definition for engagement in online advertising is creating confusion.

Is it the amount of time consumers spend with their mouse on an ad? Is it how long they watch a video? Is it a “like” on Facebook? Is it an ad’s recall-ability?

In the interest of full disclosure I’ll admit that my company, mediaFORGE, is guilty of contributing to the convolution of engagement. But we’re repenting.

So what is engagement? It’s more than a single measurement or an abstract way of describing a consumer experience. It’s a campaign methodology.

Engagement Defined

At its essence, an engagement is an interaction with an ad. Watching in-ad video, playing a game, browsing products, sharing content, or conducting a search (among other things) all count as engagement.

All ad interaction has a proven impact on the way consumers respond to online advertising. In fact, a recent comScore study found that ad interaction has a higher correlation to conversions than viewable impressions or even clicks.

Engagement, as a methodology, involves considering the effectiveness of ad interaction at each stage of an ad campaign — from designing the ads to setting optimization parameters to attributing success.

Fostering Engagement With Ad Design

Ads are the heart of the Engagement methodology. To engage consumers, ads must have interactive functionality and compelling personalized content. This sounds obvious, but, to be clear, this means engagement-focused ads must be dynamic on a level beyond what is required for campaigns focused on a clicks or viewable impressions.

It’s not just about throwing relevant content in an aesthetically pleasing ad. It’s about delivering a miniature brand experience to each consumer. Consumers benefit by having content they can explore without leaving the site they’re browsing. The benefit to advertisers is the opportunity to highlight multiple products and brand assets in one ad.

How To Optimize For Engagement

Optimizing campaigns is about more than identifying a metric to report against, it also determines the design of the campaign, including who it is targeting and how.

When a campaign is optimized for engagement, it means all aspects of the campaign’s design are focused on getting as many consumers to engage and convert as possible.

Every targeted display campaign is optimized towards its performance metric — click campaigns are optimized for clicks, viewable impression campaigns are optimized to appear to consumers who are most likely to return and convert. Teams of optimization and yield experts closely monitor campaigns to make sure they are maximizing the performance metric they are measured against.

The benefit of optimizing for engagement is two-fold. First, the audience of people who will engage with ads is much larger than the audience who click on ads.

Since not all shoppers are clickers, optimizing campaigns to reach engagers greatly increases the number of potential purchasers that will be reached. Also, optimizing for engagement does not rely on showing ads to users who are already likely to return to the advertiser’s site, whether or not they see an ad.

Second, optimizing for engagement means that ads will influence consumers. Anyone who interacts with a campaign ad has an experience with the brand, one that can’t be replicated by ads that are only designed to generate a click-through.

By serving ads to people who may be interested in the brand’s products/services, the effectiveness of the campaign is already increased. When that audience is further refined to those who are most likely to engage and be influenced by dynamic ads, whether in the short or long term, return on ad spend is quickly improved.

Attributing Properly For Engagement

A vital component to the Engagement methodology is the ability to track ad interactions.  It is key to using engagement as a performance metric, because claimed conversions must be attributed to a consumer who interacted with a campaign ad.

The theory behind engagement is that advertisers should not have to pay for any action other than a conversion, and that they should have proof that claimed conversions were influenced by a campaign ad.

They best way to do this is to provide data that demonstrates the link between the tracked interaction and the logged conversion.

Aligning Interests Ensures Success

I’ve explained how embracing Engagement as a comprehensive campaign methodology improves the success of an ad campaign.

There’s an additional benefit that doesn’t fit into the categories above. Engagement-based campaigns have the rare outcome of aligning the interests of all three parties involved in the campaign.

The consumer gets a better ad experience, and has positive feelings about the advertiser. Because of that, the advertiser sees higher conversions and gains improved consumer loyalty.

The display provider gets paid because the client got paid — incentivizing it to run the kind of campaign that makes consumers happy and makes advertisers money.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Analytics | Channel: Display Advertising | Display Advertising | Display Advertising Column


About The Author: has been working as CEO of mediaFORGE since 2006. He is passionate about display media technology and the potential it has to shape the future of the advertising/marketing industry.

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  • Cloud Nine Media

    Great piece Tony. I think it’s fantastic to see that a growing number of ad networks and publishers have begun offering a CPE pricing model. (Full disclosure, my company Cloud Nine Media is one of these networks and we sell our inventory almost exclusively on a CPE basis.)I agree with the importance of fostering ad design but do want to add that offering consumers something in return for their time and attention, e.g. premium content, virtual credits in a casual game or free WiFi access, leads to great advertising success.

  • Marielle Hanke


  • Chris Elwell

    “Engagement” and ”branding” no doubt tie for the most ambiguous advertising buzzword of all time. :-)


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