Getting to engagement

If you want to figure out the best medium to engage your target, try scanning images of their brain. Neuroscience is just one of the emerging methods being utilized by media agencies to help marketers get to engagement. But that's just one side of the equation; truly getting there calls for a deft creative hand too. In other words, there's an art and a science to it.

If you want to figure out the best medium to engage your target, try scanning images of their brain. Neuroscience is just one of the emerging methods being utilized by media agencies to help marketers get to engagement. But that’s just one side of the equation; truly getting there calls for a deft creative hand too. In other words, there’s an art and a science to it.

The fact that the new buzzword hasn’t really been defined yet is not stopping folks in the industry from trying to get a handle on the elusive quality, believed to be a key ingredient of advertising effectiveness. ‘Engagement is turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context,’ says Joe Plummer, chief research officer of the NYC-based Advertising Research Foundation. The organization is currently working to flesh out that definition and develop some metrics for assessing engagement.

In the meantime, a number of research and media measurement companies have been touting various studies and systems for getting to engagement. Last month Florida-based Simmons Research launched a pilot of its National Multi-Media Engagement Study in the U.S. The company plans to start a full study this fall with the ultimate goal of providing ratings of the cognitive, behaviourial, and emotional involvement consumers have with media.

Meanwhile, Nielsen Media Research in the U.S. begins its engagement research program this month using a separate panel of people meter households that have finished their two-year terms. These households will continue to have their viewing metered but, unlike the ratings panel, they will also participate in surveys to see if there is a correlation between what they watch and brand and advertising recall, awareness and attitudes.

And IAG Research of New York, which says its programming, ad, and product placement research already helps gauge engagement, has plans to add an engagement component to its online and print research products. Currently IAG collects 50 different attribute measurements about every ad, product placement, and program sponsorship occurring across all U.S. broadcast and major cable networks during prime time. It conducts 80,000 surveys daily about the television programs panelists watched the night before.

Although television seems to be the first focus for engagement research, media agencies don’t believe engagement is limited to TV or to interactivity. Most have been working on the engagement conundrum for the past few years and have already developed research studies that have helped enhance their planning and buying strategies.

PHD Canada of Toronto is blending both art and science with programs and tools that go beyond basic consumer research to the realm of neuroscience in its quest to understand how best to engage consumers.

On the art side, instead of just passively agreeing that media needs to get more creative, PHD took steps to make it happen. Passport to Innovation, an 18-month management-level program, was developed to infuse the entire organization with the skill set that media agencies haven’t historically been know for – creativity. The program was designed by Toronto creativity and innovation consulting organization CreativityLand.

Fred Auchterlonie, SVP director of client services at PHD, says it was so successful that a phase two will begin this year and involve many more staff. The program encompasses management and communication skills as well as creativity and innovation.

While he’s not sure Passport to Innovation can be specifically credited for the campaigns coming out of PHD – such as its award-winning work for Dove – Auchterlonie says it is definitely having an impact agency-wide.

‘Internally it has changed the way we operate, [including] everything from running brainstorming sessions to personality typing. [We are] getting better at communicating, and understanding different personality types and how to communicate with them. It’s increased the whole sense of collaboration [and is now] a natural step in the early stages of what we do and the work we develop.’

On the science side, PHD is in the process of introducing neuroplanning to its clients. This proprietary process and model was developed by PHD in the U.K. about two years ago with U.K.-based Neurosense, a specialist consultancy that uses cognitive neuroscientific methods to gain insights into consumer thought and behaviour. To do this, it employs psychology, psychophysics, and fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) in addition to marketing skills.

In the process, consumers are fitted with a helmet-mounted MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) device that takes three-dimensional pictures of their brains while they experience TV, radio and print ads. By seeing which part of the brain is activated by static visual, audio/visual, or audio stimuli, Neurosense can ascertain the positive or negative impact of each medium.

Subjects were exposed to several different creative approaches and messages across a myriad of product categories and then creative effects were weeded out to focus strictly on the delivery channels. From there, six broad communications strategies were isolated – disrupt, activate, break through, strengthen, sub-influences, and connect – to create a model that combines those strategies with other media metrics.

‘The neuroscience suggests there are different parts of the brain you want to stimulate in order to get certain types of communications through, whether it’s an emotional response you need or something that is [going to impact] short-term or

long-term memory,’ explains Auchterlonie. ‘It becomes a very handy tool to look across a number of different channels, think about what you’re trying to do, and narrow it down to a few channels that do that particularly well.’

PHD Canada has just begun to introduce neuroplanning to clients such as Unilever and Hershey so Auchterlonie says the results aren’t likely to be seen until next year, but there have been some case studies out of the U.K. already.

He cites a campaign for the Guardian newspaper as an example. The objective was to grow audience by way of its sports section and this involved changing consumer perception of the product, which was not viewed as being credible sports editorial relative to its competition in the marketplace.

This deeply embedded negative belief had to be overcome. Through neuroplanning, Auchterlonie says they found that a connect strategy made the most sense if they wanted to change this hardwired perception and to do that, TV was assessed to be the most powerful tool. Rather than simply linking the paper with a popular sports figure as spokesperson, it was decided to approach a broadcaster about having a content-driven show put together by the Guardian.

He says neuroplanning helped shape not just the media choice itself but also gave it some context in how to use it. There is more to it than just pointing to a channel he says, and if connect is the strategy being considered, there are a number of different ways to execute it.

‘The program was placed strategically on the schedule leading into some big sporting events in the marketplace. The viewership has been positive and they are looking at renewing and keeping it as an ongoing show. Their research would also suggest that it has worked to change perception among their readers.’

Meanwhile, Carat Canada of Toronto has a proprietary communications planning process called Media Chemistry, which seems to fall somewhere between art and science. It was developed through focus groups to help create plans with high levels of consumer engagement among various target demos.

Cynthia Fleming, EVP Carat Canada, says the tool takes a qualitative approach to understanding consumer relationships with media and other places and situations where they can be reached.

For example, the Media Chemistry exercise showed working mothers are more likely to consume TV commercial content when it’s delivered in an environment they’ve chosen and when they’re in control of the selection of programming, rather than when co-viewing with their children.

Adds Fleming: ‘So there’s a greater opportunity to reach them with a commercial message [at that point] rather than earlier in the evening when the level of involvement – although she might be in front of the TV and be reported as viewing – is not as high. That is a form of engagement that we’re looking to achieve with traditional media.

‘Then of course there are other areas where you could reach them when they’re out and about with their families.’

Out of Media Chemistry came a couple of plans for Procter & Gamble’s Pampers brand that were decidedly low-tech but high on engagement.

The Pampers Changing Station campaign at events last summer was built around the Pampers brand and P&G’s new Kandoo ‘assist’ products for children. Fleming says the idea came from talking to consumers about their experiences when they have a baby with them at events and don’t have any place to change them.

‘Connecting with the consumer at that level [provides a] high-level of engagement because they arrive at the tent and there’s Pampers’ product, literature, and couponing. The other aspect of this exercise was hygiene for kids – Kandoo products – a wash and stepstools – were placed at the Zoo for example so when [kids] went into the washrooms there were Kandoo assist products placed there and stickers for them. So it was connecting with the consumer in a different way.’

Media Chemistry also came into play for the IAMS brand of pet foods. The objective was to engage with pet owners but, demographically, pet owners run the full range of the population, so they aren’t easy to target with traditional media. Instead the IAMS Pet Patrol was created to reach them in walking areas and pet parks. Pet Patrol crews would interact with the pet owners, provide sampling, and take pictures of owners with their pets then post the photos on the IAMS Web site.

Fleming says these engagement efforts present the opportunity to collect

e-mail addresses to begin a longer-term relationship with consumers.

‘The talk is all about interactive TV spots. There seems to be this whole focus on reaching [consumers] in a place where they can click. Do I really want to go outside of my favourite drama to spend time [on the Web] with an advertiser? It’s just not a relevant environment and that’s where engagement works best.

‘I saw a great spot the other day and I interacted with it. I laughed. That’s connecting in the old 30-second-spot way.’

With notes from Lisa D’Innocenzo

SMG taps EnQ

Study measures engagement of fall TV shows

Want to know which upcoming TV show will become the water-cooler hit with your demo? Starcom MediaVest Group has developed a tool, dubbed EnQ, to determine consumer engagement with new TV programs. First used last summer for the fall TV lineup, the study, which was conducted through focus groups, is being expanded this fall season and will be used for magazines later this year.

Fifteen-minute clips culled from the pilots of 22 new shows were shown to the focus groups last year. Out of the discussions and questionnaires afterwards, SMG was able to assess consumer impressions of the show’s originality, the power of the cast, believability, and characters. Other factors such as placement on the broadcast schedule and whether it’s a simulcast or

non-simulcast broadcast were also factored in.

Joanna von Felkerzam, director of SMG Insights, explains: ‘Prison Break had very good scores overall in looking at cast and originality but once the time it was scheduled for Monday night was unveiled, the EnQ score fell – especially among guys. There was no way they were giving up their football to watch Prison Break.’

The EnQ study not only helped SMG book their clients into shows that delivered the GRPs they were looking for, the audiences of the shows judged to be engaging were likely to be more attentive to the advertising.

‘When we talk about engagement, the idea is it will have a positive impact on a consumer’s ad recall and with it, interest in the product and also potential purchase intent,’ says von Felkerzam. ‘It’s about content as well as the context. Whether you call it engagement or call it another buzzword, the principles driving it are here to stay so we need to move forward on figuring it out.’

In addition to Prison Break, other new shows earmarked to be winners were Everybody Hates Chris, My Name is Earl, Ghost Whisperer, Surface and Supernatural. Once the shows aired, Nielsen People Meter data supported the finding when SMG looked at ratings, audience size, and audience retention.

When looking at established shows, von Felkerzam says SMG tracks program retention – the percentage of time an average audience actually viewed the show – and loyalty to the show, which is actually the number of telecasts viewed over time.

‘This really does give us a better understanding of the involvement an audience has with a program,’ says von Felkerzam. ‘A show can have a low rating but it has found a niche audience that is quite loyal to that particular show. Depending on our target, it may be the right show specific to our consumer group.’ PS