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How to Measure the Digital Ad Engagement

The importance of establishing a much-needed framework for defining and rethinking ad engagement vernacular and metrics is the focus of a whitepaper released by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) in collaboration with Radar Research.

The report, titled “Digital Ad Engagement: An Industry Overview and Reconceptualization,” addresses a longstanding challenge faced by advertisers, publishers, agencies, marketers and a variety of other interactive industry participants for whom ad “engagement” is an essential device in digital advertising – yet one which lacks a precise and universal definition.

The paper also serves as a launching point for the creation of a new IAB Research Council working group that will be formed in 2013 to define a forward-looking ad engagement paradigm.

[ “Agencies Need to be Intrepid Explorers” – Jack Klues, chief executive officer, VivaKi ]

“For too long the concept of ad engagement has confounded stakeholders across the media landscape,” said Sherrill Mane, senior VP, Research, Analytics and Management, IAB. “With the advent of digital analytics and highly sophisticated technologies for measuring user interactions, the engagement landscape has become overcrowded with hundreds of metrics that may or may not have value in understanding the effectiveness of ads.”

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“Digital Ad Engagement: An Industry Overview and Reconceptualization” outlines how the term “engagement” is currently used by the interactive industry. The conclusion is that today, the term engagement actually describes three distinct phenomena:

  1. Ad engagement: reviewing whether the creative is compelling and whether a consumer interacted with the ad in some way
  2. Content engagement: gauging which content is most captivating on a site
  3. Audience engagement: identifying which viewers are paying the most attention and are contributing to the conversation

Next, the whitepaper outlines three major categories of engagement that can be the basis of a new paradigm for defining what interactive ad engagement is and how it works:

  1. Cognitive: awareness, interest and intention
  2. Physical: user-initiated interaction
  3. Emotional: affective

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While the interactive advertising industry has stalemated over how to define ad engagement, innumerable interactions that can be tracked and fed into the concept of engagement have exploded, further exposing the “click-through” as an often-inadequate measurement and effectiveness device. The whitepaper lists three common proxies to cognitive measures of ad engagement:

  1. Biometrics: unconscious physical reactions such as heart palpitations, pupil dilation and eye tracking
  2. Surveys: self-reported engagement
  3. Heatmaps: detailed data visualizations of visitor activity

Further, the whitepaper cites the growth of the following platforms as catalysts for an industry consensus and reconceptualization around ad interactions:

  1. Video: play rate, play-through rate, completion rates, median video viewing time, share rates
  2. Rich Media: display times, expansions, expansion times, interaction time/rate, form responses, game play, share rates
  3. Mobile: click to call, map retail location, interaction rates, click to download, click to play, share rates

The IAB ad engagement whitepaper analyzes more than 30 interviews with publishers, agencies and research and analytics vendors. The research includes input and viewpoints from companies that span the range of platforms that populate the interactive advertising landscape – such as display, search, mobile, video, social and rich media.

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The report was informed and guided by input from the following companies: Brand Keys,, BrightRoll, BUZZMEDIA, comScore, CondeNast, DraftFCB, Facebook, Forbes, Google, Hulu, Martini, Mediacom, Microsoft, Moat, The New York Times, Nielsen, Optimedia, Pictela, PointRoll, Sapient, Say Media, SessionM, ShareThis, ShareThrough, Starcom, Tapjoy, Turner, Univision, Vevo, Vibrant Media,, WildTangent, xAds, Yahoo!.

Radar Research is a strategic consultancy focused on emerging media, culture and commerce.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is comprised of more than 500 leading media and technology companies that are responsible for selling 86% of online advertising in the United States.

Photo courtesy: IAB

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